The Board of Supervisors voted to approve a $1 billion budget Tuesday, with no reductions for Santa Barbara County departments in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said staff are focused on having a fully funded strategic reserve and buffer in case of a future recession, and not using one-time money for ongoing expenses.
The county will look at a combination of debt financing and one-time resources for its list of major capital improvement projects, she told the supervisors.
The board spent most of its deliberations discussing $1 million in unspent cannabis tax revenues and carryover fund balances, and decided to put it toward community choice energy studies, cannabis tax compliance, alternative commute programs, a recreation master plan, and $135,000 in library funding.
The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the budget 4-1, with Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting, saying the county did not adequately address deferred maintenance needs.
The cannabis tax revenues, which are estimated to bring in $5.6 million for next year, are funding enforcement, and the county is adding four planning positions to process the permit applications and appeals.
“It’s a pretty target-rich environment out there right now,” Sheriff Bill Brown said, regarding enforcement.
The county’s Cannabis Compliance Team is targeting allegedly illegal grows and retail, to “give the legal market the chance it deserves to thrive,” he said.
Departments presented their budgets and work plans to the Board of Supervisors in a series of April workshops.
Behavioral Wellness Department Director Alice Gleghorn updated the board on efforts to divert people with mental-health issues from jail and the criminal justice system, including the co-response program with sheriff’s deputies and a mobile crisis mental-health unit.
Public safety departments discussed their plans in a meeting that had an extended lunch break due to a false bomb threat targeting the County Administration Building.
The Northern Branch Jail is expected to start operating during the next fiscal year, with delays pushing the construction completion to November.
The county also faces major costs for renovating the Main Jail facility, which will still house the majority of inmates once the new jail opens near Santa Maria.
The county hasn’t finalized renovation plans for the Main Jail, and the redesign could impact staff needs, Brown said Tuesday.
The supervisors weren’t sure how much money to budget for community choice energy studies since staff will make a report on the program options in July.
The county could pursue an independent program or join Monterey County, staff said Tuesday. The supervisors decided Tuesday to earmark $319,000 in the budget.
Community choice energy programs allow counties and cities to choose the source of electricity, such as renewables including wind and solar, and set rates, but the power is still delivered through existing utility companies.
Click here to read the county’s 2019-20 budget documents.