Art & Culture

County Budget Hearings to begin Monday

Multiple Programs May be Cut, Including the Library

County Supervisors will begin a series of public hearings on the proposed 2013-2014 budget Monday. Supervisors have been meeting with analysts and Interim County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa for months in an effort to prioritize spending for the $136M budget.

What are your  priorities for how public dollars should be spent? Leave your comments below.

"I expect it to go much smoother this year," said District 1 Supervisor Margie Barrios. "We will still have some tough decisions to make, but I think we are better prepared than last year." Barrios named public safety and service levels in the Planning and Public Works Departments as her priorities. She also expressed concern over the San Benito County Free Library.

"I consider that one of the departments I want to maintain service levels for. I hope not to cut its hours any more than we already have.In the past few years, we've had to cut back hours in different departments and that has affected the level of service we can provide to residents. I'd like to see that addressed."

In his report to the board, Espinosa outlines the county's fiscal challenges over the past several years and proposes that they increase the hours of employees in an effort to improve services to residents.

"During the past four (4) fiscal years, the County of San Benito faced reductions in revenues, budgets, public services, and workforce. Fiscal Year (FY) 2011‐12 ended
with 435 full time employees (FTE) and FY 2012‐13 dipped to an FTE low of 371," Espinosa said.

"This has impacted a majority of General Fund departments, several of which have reduced staffing to inadequate levels, thus jeopardizing the completion of many critical tasks and obligations (e.g., late submittal of CAFR). For example, the Auditor is operating without an accountant and Administration is challenged by the retirement of five (5) out of eight (8) key employees. These critical positions were only backfilled with part time and temporary help and are still vacant. The Sheriff’s department reduced staff, impacting overall safety and requiring a substantial increase of overtime in order to function. Departments operating with minimal staff and reduced office hours are barely meeting obligations within required deadlines. The lack of resources to perform the necessary duties and services puts the County in a vulnerable and weak position."

A decline in property values has also left the county with less tax dollars coming from assessed property values, he said. Supervisors listed a series of policies they will follow as they consider making cuts:

  • Maximize opportunities to consolidate, collaborate and cooperate with other agencies to improve service delivery while saving money.
  • Identify opportunities to provide service delivery while improving efficiencies and saving money.
  • Maintain a General Fund prudent cash reserve at recommended minimum of 3%.
  • Retain a Contingency of at least 3% per Fund (if a fund balance is available) as a proactive measure for unforeseen expenses or revenue reversals during the year.
  • Department Heads are directed to maintain FY12/13 authorized Full Time Employees (FTEs) per department.
  • Proposed department budget FTEs will not account for any cost increases related to meet and confer matters in current negotiations.
  • Increases to FY 12/13 authorized FTE levels may be considered with new or increased non‐general fund all‐purpose revenue funding sources.
  • In an effort to increase transparency of the true cost of government, all General Fund departments will include Cost Plan charges in their budgets.
  • Proposed new FTEs must be accompanied with new Cost Plan direct calculated charges in addition to the budgeted indirect Cost Plan charge. General Services department’s NCC will not be negatively affected by the resulting direct charge Cost Plan revenue increases.
  • The CAO’s office will analyze the impact to the General Fund’s ongoing OPEB costs and overhead workload of proposed special circumstances FTE adjustments prior to presentation to the Board of Supervisors.
  • Department heads must inform the CAO of impending employee retirements in all operating budgets in order to budget accordingly.
  • Recognize actual salary savings due to normal employee vacancies in all operating budgets.
  • Proposed reorganization affecting personnel job descriptions may be considered for inclusion in the budget only after Human Resources has reviewed the impacts related to meet and confer issues.
  • Identify options to reduce or eliminate services and costs in non‐mandated or discretionary program areas.
  • Maximize the use of Trust and Special Revenue Funds and other revenue sources (i.e., grants, etc.) to support programs and services that would otherwise consume general fund resources.
  • Prioritize and pursue ongoing funding for County Information Technology, network/infrastructure development, operating system applications and maintenance as a means to maximize productivity and personnel cost savings.
  • CAO’s proposed budget will include a financial outlook narrative and accompanying financial schedules.
  • The financial schedules will include summaries of revenue and expenditures pertaining to the county as a whole, and individual funds, and individual departments.

9:00 A.M. MONDAY. JUNE 17, 2013 – BUDGET HEARINGS BEGIN
1:30 P.M. MONDAY. JUNE 17, 2013 – PUBLIC HEARING
A public hearing re: Capital Outlay Budget, including capital projects and equipment
financed by development fees, will be held at 1 :30 p.m. (or as soon thereafter as the matter
may be heard) on Monday, June 17, 2013.
1:30 P.M. TUESDAY. JUNE 18, 2013 – BUDGET HEARINGS WILL RESUME AFTER THE
REGULAR BOARD MEETING (if necessary)
Budget hearings will begin on Monday, June 17. 2013 at 9:00 a.m. and will be
continuous until completed. There will be a public hearing on the Capital Outlay
Budget held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 17, 2013 after which budget hearings will
resume. All budget hearing items will be approved "temporary due pass".

What are your priorities for public dollars? Leave your comments below.

Julie Finigan Morris

Julie Finigan Morris is a journalist and business owner. She has worked as staff writer for several news organizations, including Thomson Newspapers in Washington D.C., McClatchy Newspapers and Scripps News Service. She is also the Co-Founder and Owner of Morris Grassfed and has lived in San Benito County for more than 25 years. Morris has also worked in corporate communications, marketing, and the non-profit sector. She is a founding board member of BenitoLink and currently serves on its Editorial Committee. She recently published her first novel, Exit Strategy. Visit her online at juliefmorris.com