Santa Barbara County supervisors will begin wrestling with the need to provide public services with limited revenues Monday when they begin three days of workshops to help the staff prepare a proposed 2018-19 budget.

The Board of Supervisors will review the needs, responsibilities and revenue sources for various departments, plus a couple of special issues, in workshops starting at 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

North County residents who are unable to attend the workshops in Santa Barbara can watch the proceedings and provide comment from the remote video system in the Board of Supervisors Conference Room at the Betteravia Government Center, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria.

The workshops also will be live-streamed online by SBCTV, which can be accessed via the Agendas and Minutes link on the Board of Supervisors page at www.countyofsb.org.

No decisions on the final budget will be made during the workshops. Instead, the board will hear from various county departments regarding their major initiatives and draft 2018-19 budgets.

The public and supervisors can then provide input for completion of the recommended 2018-19 fiscal year budget that will be released for review in May.

Final adoption will take place during budget hearings set for June 11, 13 and 15.

Monday’s workshop will include a general overview of the county’s goals, a look at a special issue known as Renew ’22 and a review of draft budgets for the Behavioral Wellness Department, the Public Defender’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, County Counsel’s Office, Community Services Department, Public Works Department, General Service Department and Fire Department.

“As we plan for fiscal year 2018-19, two primary themes emerge: renewal and resilience,” said Mona Miyasato, county executive officer. “We are continuing with Renew ’22, a multiyear initiative that began last year to drive greater fiscal sustainability, efficiency, high performance and responsive service so we can better withstand and recover from uncertain challenges and threats, like what we just experienced.

“This effort is more important than ever as we face impacts of, and recovery from, the Thomas fire and 1/9 Debris Flow,” she continued.

“The disasters will affect our community as well as our revenue base for several years, as Montecito constitutes approximately 17 percent of the property tax base and 62 percent of the hotel bed tax to the county’s General Fund, which funds services to residents throughout the county.”

As of early March, county staff estimated the total cost of responding to and recovering from the fire and debris flow was more than $55 million in county government costs, with the county’s share totaling approximately $12.3 million after federal disaster funding is applied.

But potential revenue losses are estimated at $2.9 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year and $3.6 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, largely due to disaster impacts, said Jeff Frapwell, assistant county executive officer, who serves as budget director.

Even with the disaster impacts, the county’s overall spending and revenue for next fiscal year is relatively flat, he said, and proposed service-level reductions are much lower than were anticipated based on last fall’s projected budget shortfall.

“The projected gap, estimated in October at $17 (million) to $23 million, or about 2 percent of the total $1 billion county budget, was addressed through a variety of measures,” Frapwell said.

“These included efficiencies, department restructuring, limited use of one-time funding, revenue increases and refinement of revenue and expenditure estimates, resulting in proposed service level reductions of $5.2 million, which includes 10 currently unfilled positions,” he said.

Miyasato said recovery from the Thomas fire and 1/9 Debris Flow will remain a top priority for the county, but there are several other key objectives to be addressed.

Those include implementing the cannabis regulation program that’s currently being worked out by supervisors and staff, developing more beds for mental health patients and continuing to make improvements in governmental organization.

"Key challenges continue from last year, such as addressing state and federal mandates, adjusting to growing technology demands, retention and succession planning, serving the mentally ill in and out of the criminal justice system, and funding prior board commitments like the Northern Branch Jail and maintenance needs," Miyasato said.

Balancing all those needs and services against revenues is complicated by the fact that more than 70 percent of the county’s revenue is restricted for specified services, leaving less than 30 percent of the budget for discretionary spending on board priorities.

In Wednesday’s workshop, supervisors will review the draft budgets for the Public Health Department, Social Services Department, Child Support Services, First 5 Santa Barbara County Children and Families Commission, Planning and Development Department, Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures Department, Treasurer-Tax Collector-Public Administrator’s Office, Clerk-Recorder-Assessor’s Office and Auditor-Controller’s Office.

Friday’s budget workshop will focus on draft budgets for the Sheriff’s Office, including the special issue of the Main Jail/Northern Branch Jail Transition Plan, as well as Court Special Services, the Human Resources Department, the County Executive Office and the Board of Supervisors, along with general county programs and fund balances.

The review will wind up with a board workshop summary and potential deliberations by supervisors.

Budget workshop materials are available for public review at www.countyofsb.org/ceo/budget/bw2018.sbc.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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