The County recently completed budget hearings for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget funds everything from public safety and parks to health and human service programs. Here are some highlights from what was adopted, what the County is doing to promote fiscal responsibility and some challenges facing the budget in future years.
Highlights of the Adopted Budget
These residents rely on the County for frontline services including public safety, roads and parks. In this budget, the County was able to augment services within these categories.
The Sheriff’s Office will be receiving new positions including mental health client specialists, a detective for sexual assault cases and new criminalist positions. New funding was provided for homeless services in the region including wraparound services for our local unsheltered population.
With the passage of Measure G, specific park investments including LEOs Haven and upgrades to Seacliff Village Park, Aptos Village Park and Hidden Beach Park are planned. Measure D funding will bring local residential road improvements to Rio Del Mar this year and Seacliff in the coming year.
Additionally, bridge replacement work will occur on Green Valley Road at Casserly Creek as well a number of planned storm damage sites this coming fiscal year.
The largest portion of the county’s discretionary spending is for public protection (Sheriff’s Dept., Probation, County Fire), over half of the total.
Revenues for the budget come from a combination of local taxes, state and federal taxes and user fees. Some of the state and federal funds are pass through funds intended to fund specific programs (such as health and human service programs.) For every dollar of property tax you pay, the County receives about 13 cents. For every dollar of sales tax in the unincorporated area the County receives about 12 cents. Along with hotel taxes and cannabis business taxes these are the primary funding elements (about 90 percent) of revenues for the budget.
While the County is projected to see very modest increases in property tax, sales tax and hotel/transient occupancy taxes in the next two years, there is a growing consensus that a slowdown will occur.
As a result, the County has taken some measures to be protect against a downturn including:
- Tripling reserves
- Improving our credit rating (for reduced borrowing costs)
- Reduced pension obligations
- Controlled employee growth (employee numbers are still much lower than the pre-recession levels)
- Advanced investments in some deferred maintenance at County and community facilities
Similar to last year, community challenges in behavioral health, substance abuse and homeless services continue to place additional pressure on the budget.
Local match requirements from storm damage repairs (including delays in reimbursement from the federal government for their cost share portion) are putting additional strains on local road budgets.
There are a lot of deferred maintenance and funding needs for capital improvements at County facilities (parks, County buildings) as well as roads, culverts and other infrastructure.
The lack of affordable housing, and limited funding to help with construction of affordable housing, is putting pressures on transportation networks and the job market.
Even with work done to contain health care and pension costs, the overall costs are rising. State and federal cost-shifts back to the County (especially in health and human services) pose an unknown pressure in the coming years.
Locally, sales tax, property tax and transient occupancy taxes (hotel or other vacation rental taxes) are up modestly. Some of that was committed to reserves and addressing our longer-term structural deficit.
New housing and businesses coming on line at the Aptos Village, improvements and Rancho Del Mar and improvements slated for other locations in the county are also expected to be beneficial for the budget moving forward.
The County budget can often be complex and I hope this provides you with a helpful overview.
By Zach Friend
You can view the budget at www.sccbudget.com or always feel free to call me at 454-2200 or visit during our open office hours in Aptos, Watsonville, La Selva or Corralitos.