San Benito County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa presented a review June 13 of the recommended fiscal 2017/18 budget to the board of supervisors—the price tag, approximately $219 million.
According to background records, during the past four years, the CAO’s office has presented a preview, or mock budget hearing, of the budget a few weeks before actual budget hearings in order to give the board of supervisors, department heads, and the general public an opportunity to comment on the proposed budget and suggest changes.
Espinosa said that for the past four years, his office has conducted the mock reviews of the budget. He said Analyst Melinda Casillas would recap the work conducted over the last six months by staff and administrative personnel, and that the budget hearing would be on June 26.
Casillas spoke on just a few of the recommended one-time items that were above last year’s budget, including $250,000 for the assessor’s office, $70,000 for the agriculture commissioner’s office, $15,000 for the Veterans Services Officer, $50,000 for Animal Control, $96,000 for two vehicles, $42,000 for furniture replacements and $300,000 for technology improvements.
“Road and bridge improvements is about $65 million, not that we would spend all of that in one year, but we budget out the full amount,” she said. “The capital improvements is just a re-budget of items we had last year, but were not able to get to. Some will be accomplished this year, while some won’t. The carryover items will be about $1.1 million with $31 million coming from other sources, for a total of roughly $98 million in capital projects and one-time fixed assets.”
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz asked Casillas if those figures could be “re-visited” in order to balance the budget. She said they could. Espinosa added that there was $500,000 budgeted to dismantle the old hospital on Southside Road, but said the actual work would be carried over to 2018. De La Cruz reminded him that Supervisor Jerry Muenzer had stated at the last supervisor’s meeting that he wanted to see capital projects that could be accomplished now rather than later.
“Let’s make sure these are ones that are actually going to happen,” De La Cruz cautioned.
Espinosa said he had discussed the issue with Adam Goldstone, capital projects manager for the San Benito County Resource Management Agency, and said not many of the capital projects were being funded in 2017. Casillas said Goldstone had given her a list of projects that he thought should be completed this year. She said most would be accomplished this year, with only a few carried over to 2018.
Casillas commented that because of the recent building projects around the county, the assessor’s office has been working hard to keep up with assessments, so it was important to continue supporting new positions in the office at a cost of $250,000. This is normally partially supported through a $150,000 grant, but it was not renewed this year. She said the county is expecting roughly $660,000 from the new SB-1 gas tax, and said if the board wanted to add matching funds it would come out of the General Fund reserves.
Supervisor Anthony Botelho wondered if there would be a contract in place by the time the board approved the budget, especially concerning funding for Animal Control. County Analyst Louie Valdez said there is an amendment to the contract that addresses the issue, but it has yet to be brought to the board. Botelho said he wanted to lock in a price and not have “an open checkbook” that would allow Hollister to come to the county and ask for more money.
Casillas went on to say the SB-1 money was being budgeted into the Road Fund, while all other monies are being included in the General Fund. De La Cruz wondered if the county expected to actually receive SB-1 money from the state. She told him the $660,000 should arrive in Jan. 2018. He then asked if that meant the county could begin spending the money July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, and then the state would reimburse the county. She said that was true, if the county wanted to take the risk, and De La Cruz said he did not trust the state.
Muenzer said he understood that at least $1 million was needed to repair the storm-damaged roads around the county. Espinosa told him the exact figure was $1,057,041.28 and the expected minimum reimbursement from the state was $454,950.86. He said a consultant was hired to “go after the remaining pothole repair expenses, amounting to $424,000.”
“I wonder if this board would be willing to match SB-1 dollar-for-dollar,” Muenzer asked. “SB-1 is only repairing 2.5 miles of our roads. Even if we match it dollar-for-dollar, if we have another wet year it’s just going to try to keep up with the potholes from the rainy season.”
Supervisor Robert Rivas asked Muenzer if he intended for the money to come out of reserves. Muenzer said he assumed that’s where the money would have to come from. Supervisor Mark Medina said he would support taking the money from the reserves, while De La Cruz was hesitant to do so, but suggested the board think about it until the June 26 meeting.
Casillas asked the supervisors if they wanted to go through the entire budget at that time or simply discuss some individual items. She told them, for the most part, the dollar figures were accurate, but there still could be some minor adjustments before the June 26 meeting. She said the budget would be made available to the public on the county’s website by June 15 (As of publication of this article on the afternoon of June 15, it that link was not on the county’s website). De La Cruz recommended that the word “draft” be added, so people would know that it was not the final document. He asked Casillas to go over some of the individual items and she quickly ran down revenues and costs of a few categories.
“We’ll keep making changes up until the Thursday and Friday before the budget hearing and based on any changes we’ll put the new adopted budget on the website in July,” she said.
Louie Valdez contacted BenitoLink June 16 to state that the budget had been posted on the website as of 6 p.m., June 5.
As of June 13, some of the budgeted items were:
- Non-departmental expenses – $3,034,532
- Non-departmental revenues – $25,465,282
- Grand Jury Cost – 12,348
- Public Defender Cost – 984,058
- Animal Control & Veterinarian Services Cost – 312,546
- COG/Transit Cost $664,495
- Community Based Organizations – $124,743
- Fish & Game Commission – $500
- Risk Management – $50,000
- Drug Abuse & Rural Crimes Grants Revenues $259,791
- Coroner Cost – $87,756
- Gang Prevention Program Cost – $21,834
- Housing & Economic Development Cost – $100,000
- Road Maintenance Revenue – $2,171,872
- Cannabis Revenue – $75,000
- Information Technology – $318,11