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Supervisor Gorin recaps County budget

Posted on July 18, 2019 by Susan Gorin

After several days of deliberations, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in June 14th to adopt a $1.78 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020. Each year I write about the budget to help our community understand the balancing act that takes place to ensure delivery of essential public services, and how our County  navigates the economic ups and downs that occur, whether an economic boom or bust, a shift in funding mechanisms, a natural disaster, or whatever the impediment that always seems to be before us.

 This year the Board was faced with the task of prioritizing and aligning requests with revenues to adopt a structurally balanced budget in the face of recent natural disasters. We continue to be impacted with costs associated with recovery from the 2017 Complex Fires, and this last winter we added impacts from the raging Russian River that flooded so many homes, businesses and roadways in West County.  These were in addition to increasing costs combined with declining revenues.

 Discretionary Budget – The $1.78 billion budget is primarily comprised of State and Federal funding that must be allocated to specific programs that help provide services to the residents of Sonoma County through different departments. Of the total budget, only $321 million or 18% was available to use at the Board’s discretion to support the 25 operational County departments and other needs. This year’s budget presented a $14 million gap between available ongoing revenues and departmental requests for ongoing funding.

 Pension Liability – Supervisors found a balance between funding essential services and making strategic investments, which included the approval of the single largest prepayment on pension liability in the history of the County of Sonoma. The $6.8 million prepayment towards pension obligations will help avoid interest costs of $9.5 million over 20 years. The County completed an additional $3.5 million pension prepayment in 2015.

Roads – Other strategic investments include the creation of a $5 million sinking fund to address unfunded infrastructure needs. I proposed the new sinking fund to allow the County to leverage additional State and Federal funding to support increased investments in our aging infrastructure and start to plan for the repaving of our roads damaged by heavy debris cleanup trucks after the 2017 firestorms and those roads damaged by the 2019 floods. 

In addition, the Board set aside $2.5 million to create an Economic Uncertainty fund to help weather a future economic downturn that economists are predicting will likely happen at the end of 2020. We also committed to replenish County reserves by an additional $2.5 million.

 Recovery & Resilience

Through the adopted budget, we approved the investment of over $41.2 million toward recovery and resiliency efforts that will, among other things:

  • Enhanced the newly formed Department of Emergency Management with over $3 million to invest in the creation of a comprehensive community and alert warning system;
  • Supported fire service agencies with over $8 million, including an investment on a countywide fuels reduction campaign, and additional funding for REDCOM to enhance emergency, fire and medical dispatch to unincorporated areas of the county;
  • Supported affordable housing developments, grant distribution, and the Resiliency Permit Center with over $15 million;
  • Implemented a community preparedness plan for $500,000 to help our community prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies; and
  • Carved out $4.9 million for local match requirements to bring in over $33 million in federal funds for up to 22 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) applications. 

  Health Services

  • Allocated $2.5 million in one-time funding to continue providing Peer Counseling and Family Services for the next 2 years;
  • Secured over $3.8 million for Adult Services, including residential care facilities and outpatient case management programs, which both support some of the most vulnerable populations in our community; and
  • Maintained essential  services by allocating $800,000 to address disease control and emergency preparedness activities.

 Other investments include:

  • Restoring 9 positions in the Sheriff’s Office, ensuring continuation of services at the Sonoma Valley and Russian River substations.
  • Contracting for security for the downtown Guerneville Area to enhance public safety.
  • Creating a budget placeholder to address public safety concerns in The Springs.
  • Granting United Way of the Wine Country $125,000 in additional funding to develop a transition plan to enhance the 2-1-1 system with better coordination and information.
  • Granting Creative Sonoma $300,000 to fund a grants program to continue supporting the arts.

One important reason for declining revenue is associated with the reassessment and resulting loss of property tax revenue for homes and businesses destroyed in the 2017 fires.  The County continues to pursue State funds to backfill property tax revenue losses after experiencing damages of over $200 million from the disasters experienced over the last two years.

 Not enough people in the community review our County budget; I hope I was able give you a concise overview of our 2019-2020 budget.



2 thoughts on “Supervisor Gorin recaps County budget

  1. Thank you for fighting the good fight! Many of us are still waiting for our homes to be rebuilt. No thanks to some of the insurance companies who make us jump through hoops! My daughter had to post on State Farm’s website to get a favorable response! My younger daughter had Farmers who gave them 100% without jumping through hoops! We still don’t know whether they will pay for our rental past the two years….October 8-9.

  2. Hi Susan, thanks for this concise summary, well appreciated. I’m concerned that more language addressing the climate crisis is not used. I can see how a number of these expenditures do take action toward mitigation, However, the more we can acknowledge the crisis in our words, the better prepared the general public will be when it comes time to take drastic measures.

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