The coronavirus has so far killed one person in San Luis Obispo County but fighting it pretty much killed the County Budget.
Last week, County Supervisors were given a budget that balances the tremendous loss of taxes caused by the economic shutdown in response to the pandemic by dipping deep into reserves, internal cutting and employee salary concessions.
According to County Budget Director, Emily Jackson, the Supervisors addressed a $26.2 million projected deficit for the next fiscal year (2020/21), “related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 [COVID-19] pandemic,” Jackson said in a news release.
“The reductions include $6.5 million in departmental budget cuts,” Jackson said, “use of one-time reserves in the amount of $12.8 million, and $6.9 million in voluntary savings directly from employees.”
Dist. 4 Supervisor and Board Chair Lynn Compton said, “This pandemic has affected our County in so many ways, including unprecedented budget impacts. The County faces a staggering budget gap as county residents need our services the most. The Board will strive to do what is best for our community.”
The County Board of Supervisors held a public budget hearing for Fiscal Year 2020-21 (FY 2020- 21) Recommended Budget this week to consider staff’s recommendations for balancing the budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
The departmental budget cuts, Jackson said, include a 4-percent drop to the level of General Fund support provided to non-public safety departments.
“In recognition of the County Board of Supervisors’ prioritization of public safety departments,” Jackson said, “County staff recommended a 1-percent reduction for public safety departments, as well as an additional $2.4 million in reductions to public safety, due to an expected loss of Proposition 172 revenue specific to those departments.”
Supervisors didn’t go for that. Jackson said the board dipped further into reserves “to backfill the loss of revenue to significantly reduce the budget cuts for public safety departments.” Public safety mainly includes the Sheriff’s Department, County Jails, District Attorney’s Office, Courts and Probation (juvenile hall).
Jackson said the original General Fund budget was for $577 million but they’d had a “significant loss” in funding due to the Coronavirus shutdown, while seeing higher demand for County services.
The County Administrator, who headed the County’s virus response, said, “The cuts we are facing are larger than any single year during the recession,” said CAO Wade Horton. “These next few years will be challenging, but we will work closely with department heads and the board to weather the storm.”