SB County to begin public budget workshops

More than $5 million in service cuts proposed

SB County to begin public budget workshops

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - It's your chance to participate in how the County of Santa Barbara spends your tax dollars with the first of three public budget workshops starting today, Monday, April 16.

Santa Barbara County is staring at millions of dollars in service cuts with no proposed layoffs.

The county is already spending more than $6 million in reserve funds for its cost of responding to the Thomas Fire last December followed by the deadly debris flow in Montecito in January and will spend at least that much in the new budget.

Then there's the new North County Jail currently under construction near Santa Maria which is due to open in 2019.

While the State of California is paying most of the estimated $110 million in construction costs, Santa Barbara County expects to spend at least $18 million a year to staff and operate the new detention facility.

Going into the 2018-19 public budget workshops, more than $5 million in county service reductions with no job losses are on the table for discussion.

"More than 90 percent of our revenue comes from property tax and of course Montecito was our golden goose", said Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino earlier this year, "so we've got to look at the loss of property tax, the loss of the TOT, the bed tax, fewer people coming to visit the county, so it's going to be a long haul back for us, this isn't something that's going to turn around next month or the month after that."

The big unknown for county revenues is legal cannabis.

Santa Barbara County is reportedly leading the state in requests for commercial cannabis production permits and voters will decide the fate of a county cannabis tax in the June primary election.

County departments on the agenda for budget presentations in the Monday, April 16 public workshop include County Public Works, Public Defender and District Attorney, County Probation and the County Fire Department.

Two more public budget workshops will be held on Wednesday, April 18 and Friday, April 20.

The County Board of Supervisors will adopt the 2018-19 budget in June.

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