The County Executive Office presented a $2.55 billion balanced Preliminary Budget for FY 2021-2022 at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting. “Abalanced budget means that we can continue to provide critical core services such as health, social and safety services, street and road maintenance and enhance key areas of public health and mental health services with a continued commitment of services for individuals facing homelessness,” said County Executive Officer Mike Powers. “I appreciate the hard work of our Board of Supervisors and County team in the strategic management of public funds. This careful stewardship has resulted in strong reserves enabling the County to move quickly in response to the pandemic, such as feeding vulnerable older adults and housing those facing homelessness and testing. This extensive community support during the pandemic has been in addition to enhanced funding of critical services.”
The budget includes expanding public health services, new positions in mental health diversion programs in both the District Attorney and Public Defender Offices, increased staffing and services funding in the Farmworker Resource Program, new positions to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and community engagement efforts among others. The budget also increases business fee waivers ranging from 50 to 100 percent, totaling an estimated $3.5 million in support of further pandemic economic recovery.
Recognizing the great need for expanded mental health services and that this is a top priority for the Board, the budget recommends a General Fund contribution to fund staffing for seven remaining inpatient psychiatric beds at the Ventura County Medical Center Inpatient Psychiatric Unit. The increased funding will enable the County to add four additional chairs to the Crisis Stabilization Unit.
For the second year in a row, the proposed budget benefited from reduced pension costs due to the accelerated payment of unfunded pension obligations resulting in a funded ratio of close to 90 percent.
The preliminary budget also invests in providing shelter for those in need, supporting foster youth and adult protective services, support for increased substance use services, the transition of the state Division of Juvenile Justice closure that shifts responsibility for young adults up to age 25 to county youth facilities among other areas of public safety and wellness.
The County continues to invest in infrastructure, including significant upgrades to the County’s Fire Stations and the purchase of the Family Justice Center to provide services to victims of crimes.
Key budget highlights include a total County appropriation of $2.55 billion, up $100.8 million or 4.1% from the prior year. General Fund General Purpose Revenues include $464.8 million, up $17.2 million or 3.9% from the prior year.
The proposed preliminary budget comes after the County’s $373 million COVID-19 Spending Plan through June 30, 2021, which was carefully budgeted to ensure that the maximum amount was invested in services for the community rather than for ongoing regular County operations.
For the first time in many years, 24 departments and agencies gave budget presentations to the Board of Supervisors, totaling some 14 hours of information provided over the last six public meetings, culminating in the presentation of the preliminary budget on June 8.
The County is focused on long-term financial viability and will continue to integrate the use of multi-year forecasts as a guide to maintain balanced budgets. “The Board of Supervisor’s commitment to the comprehensive long-term fiscal plan helps to maintain the County’s strong financial position. Consistent application of these budget principles has minimized the impact during economic downturns and avoided the need for significant budget cuts during times when these services are needed most,” said Chief Financial Officer Kaye Mand. Final Budget Hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday, June 21, at 1:30 p.m., with a public hearing session to follow at 6:00 p.m. that evening.