July 1 marked the start of the new fiscal year 2017-18. I invite you to take a closer look on the County’s website (URL below). The website has been active for approximately one year and is an ongoing effort to provide full transparency. I realize this isn’t as exciting as “House of Cards,” but the budget sets priorities for the fiscal year and each of us is affected in some manner. The $1.57 billion budget reflects the theme of “Preparing for the Future.”
This year, we grappled with uncertainty at the federal level and inevitable economic fluctuations. The current federal administration is committed to dramatic cuts that will affect us locally. The greatest concern is diminishing support for core county services, in particular related to Health and Human Services.
In Sonoma County, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would result in the loss of an estimated 2,000 jobs in the community and approximately $192 million in local gross domestic product. Repeal would cause the loss of $6.7 million in Medi-Cal expansion revenue used for behavioral health services, and $375,000 for home visiting for high-risk families.
Accordingly, we are investing wisely in our strategic priorities, to protect our core services and infrastructure investments, and aggressively advocate for our community in Sacramento and Washington to resist the coming fiscal and policy threats.
The FY2017-18 budget supports strategic initiatives developed by the Board of Supervisors at its annual Strategic Planning Study Session with senior staff. During the session, four broad categories were identified: resource conservation through a holistic Healthy Watersheds approach; investing and incentivizing Housing for All in our community; rebuilding our Infrastructure through investments in roads, facilities, and neighborhood resources; and Securing our Safety Net by focusing on the most vulnerable individuals.
Overall, the recommended budget is flat from prior fiscal year. The total countywide appropriations for FY 2017-18 are $1.57 billion, or less than one percent change. The recommended budget includes $459 million for general fund revenue. In 2008-09 the County’s General Fund peaked at $452.98 million; in 2010-11 the General Fund fell to $397.02 million during the recession.
The recommended budget includes a total of 4,123 full-time permanent staff positions, a decrease from last year’s adopted budget. Thankfully, we preserved funding for the sergeants at the Sonoma Valley Substation. This was critical as these officers at the substation perform critically needed services in Sonoma Valley.
The number one area of interest from constituents across the county is the condition of roads. The budget includes $11.9 million towards the Pavement Preservation Program, continuing the board’s commitment to addressing the deplorable condition of many county roads for decades. Since, June 2012, the BOS has allocated $67.4 million in discretionary County resources to resurface approximately 300 miles of roads. The County has 1,378 unincorporated road miles, and District One has approximately 38,000 constituents who live in the unincorporated areas and depend solely on the county to maintain and repair their roads.
Transportation and Public Works is planning a two-year program for pavement reconstruction and preservation totaling almost $29 milllion. I am actively working on moving road improvement into small, residential neighborhoods that are often overlooked, as I plan for the next five years.
Another issue of great concern is pension and other Post Employment Benefit Costs. The budget includes $57.4 million overall towards paying down pension obligations, which includes $24.3 million in Pension Obligation Bond principal debt payments. The Recommended Budget also includes a $33.1 million contribution towards the retirement system’s unfunded liability, which includes $23.3 million from the county as employer and $9.7 million from employees. In addition, the recent legal settlement with the Sonoma County Association of Retired Employees reduces the Other Post-Employment Liability by $32 million.
General Fund revenues ($308 million) fall into these main categories:
While the budget may not be the most exciting topic, it guides the delivery of services. It is my goal to provide information for public review, advocate for our long and short-term interests, and listen to constituents.
As part of that process, in August I am inviting our Directors of Health Services, Human Services and Community Development to Sonoma Valley to engage with the City and service providers on the needs of the Valley, looking to enhance services for social services, nutrition, health, mental health, housing, homeless, etc. If you have some thoughts on the needs in the district, please call or email me at [email protected]
You can review the budget in detail at Open Budget County of Sonoma: http://budget.sonomacounty.ca.gov/#!/year/default.