County budget hearings begin on June 19 and last a little over a week, with night hearings in both Santa Cruz and Watsonville over that time. The Board of Supervisors is reviewing the $717 million budget, which constitutes an approximately 5.5 percent reduction in expenditures from last year, during these hearings.
In a recent budget message to the Board, the County Administrative Officer noted that as the county emerged from the Great Recession, the Board has worked to limit the growth of the overall budget while focusing on restoring reserves and investing in key priorities.
Specifically, in the last year the Board has focused efforts on housing affordability, traffic and congestion issues, early childhood health programs, a restructuring of our social safety net program funding to focus on collective outcomes and be more flexible toward funding emerging needs, investments in mental health and substance abuse services, homeless services, public safety economic development and parks improvements.
The proposed budget from county staff, reflective of recommendations from departments and input from the Board of Supervisors, includes the following (small sample) elements:
• Additional investment in local roads and significant winter storm recovery as a result of the passage of Measure D and state and federal funds
• Additional contributions toward reserves to further improve the county’s credit quality and ensure greater financial stability in a downturn
• Inclusion of the Thrive by Three program that I co-sponsored with Supervisor Coonerty to
invest in the 0-3 population in our county
How is the budget allocated?
The county budget includes a number of state and federal pass through funds for required
services – particularly in the health and human services fields. Here is a breakdown of how our overall budget is proposed for allocation (including mandated expenditures): Approximately 40 percent goes toward health and human services, about 26 percent to land use and community services such as Public Works/Roads, Parks and Planning. Nineteen percent for public safety including the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, District Attorney, Public Defender and County Fire while 13 percent goes to General Government functions such as economic development, county facilities, and elections among other things.
While county revenues are up over last year, the county is still working on reducing its structural deficit. State economic forecasts anticipate a slowdown and federal budgeting uncertainty (including the possibility of significant health coverage changes) means the county needs to continue to contain costs (and increase reserves) in advance of any downturn. There is no question that investments in affordable housing and local roads and traffic relief need to be on top of the list of investments and policy changes. In addition, it’s important that the county continue to create policies that encourage economic opportunity locally to continue to grow revenues and provide higher paying jobs to local residents.
These numbers outlined above are just a small part of the budget. While they provide the framework for our budget hearings they aren’t set in stone. Your input in this process is key to ensuring your priorities are reflected in the budget. If you’d like to explore more of the budget, the county has created a new online interactive budget module at www.sccbudget.com.
Interested in sharing your thoughts? Feel free to attend one of the day or nighttime budget hearings or you can always give me a call at 454-2200 to let me know your thoughts.