It’s often said that the highest expression of an organization’s values is how it spends its money.
Santa Cruz County’s budget is a perfect example. While the $777 million budgeted for Fiscal Year 2018-19 largely keeps our spending in line with last year’s, we have invested more in human services, public safety and parks as a reflection of our most pressing community needs.
We have completed more than $20 million in repairs from the 2016-17 storm damage, and have begun making improvements to our roadways tapping Measure D funds approved by voters in 2016. This next budget will also help us address design work for the San Lorenzo Way Bridge Replacement project in Felton.
Another important source of funding for road repairs is SB 1, a transportation bill passed in 2017 but now threatened by a repeal effort on the November ballot. Santa Cruz County stands to lose nearly a half-million dollars each year in gas tax revenue for vital transportation projects, including the new retaining wall and drainage improvements on Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek. We need the SB 1 funds to keep our roads in good shape for years to come.
Next year’s budget is also a prudent one that maintains strong reserves to protect us against rising health care and pension costs for our hard-working labor force. This year also represents the last single-year budget cycle. The County Administrative Officer intends to move to a two-year budgeting cycle and operational plan to better address our needs over the long term and improve how we meet the objectives outlined in our new Strategic Plan.
That said, we have a number of additional challenges to address in the short-term, ones that will require additional resources.
While we work through a backlog of infrastructure projects, our County budget also tackles emerging public safety concerns. The Sheriff’s Office opened its Boulder Creek station and re-established its K-9 program, and this year will add two deputies for cannabis enforcement. And we are spending more next year within the District Attorney’s Office to expand consumer protection and victim’s assistance.
In the Valley, we have identified the need for $400,000 in additional funding for the Felton Nature Discovery Park, which will be sited adjacent to the new Felton Library. The $400,000 would provide a match to grants and other funding sources for design and construction of the park, which will be the first of its kind in California. We have an estimated need for another $250,000 to fund general park operations and maintenance across the County.
While the County currently spends nearly $300,000 on a winter emergency shelter program, we need a year-round Homeless Navigation Center, at an additional cost of nearly $600,000, that would provide shelter during the day and night for up to 140 adults in the North County area.
If you have any questions about the County’s operations in the 5th District, we’re here to help. Just contact our office at 831-454-2200 or email me at email@example.com. And for the last six years, the person who would often field your calls and emails was Robin Musitelli. By now, many of you have probably heard that Robin retired on June 30 after a total of 18 years as a County Supervisor’s Analyst, having worked first for former Supervisor Ellen Pirie before coming over to the 5th District when Ellen retired.
Nobody knows the valley as well as Robin, who is a longtime Brookdale resident, and we are going to miss her around the office. But we know she will enjoy the extra time to spend with her grandchildren and her horses. Whenever you see Robin around the Valley, please thank her for all her years of dedicated service.