Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal pushes more money to public schools but still proposes to end redevelopment agencies, a move city officials in San Luis Obispo County said would hurt their economic development efforts and their ability to provide low-income housing.
Brown unveiled his revised budget Monday, which includes a projected $6.6 billion increase in tax revenue over the next two years. That news, coupled with already approved budget solutions, leaves a $10.8 billion deficit (including a $1.2 billion reserve).
But the governor’s plan still relies on extending temporary taxes, without which more cuts to local public safety and mental health programs are expected.
County officials plan a full discussion today on the new proposal. But they made clear that uncertainty remains.
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“The most immediate concern to the county is what happens July 1. At this point, no one knows,” county budget analyst Dan Buckshi wrote in an email, referring to the start of the new fiscal year.
The Central Coast’s legislators, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and state Sen. Sam Blakeslee — both Republicans from San Luis Obispo — said Monday through their spokespersons that they were still crunching Brown’s numbers.
Blakeslee praised the fact that schools won’t have more cuts, but he was silent on other issues.
“With $6.6 billion in unanticipated revenue, cuts to (kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools) are now off the table — something that I have been fighting for all year long,” Blakeslee wrote. “This surge in revenue underscores the importance of implementing long overdue structural reforms that prevent future boom-bust budget cycles.”
Achadjian’s office said he wants to look at the proposal’s details before commenting.
Both lawmakers are key players in the Sacramento scene, because the prevailing wisdom is that they are among a handful of Republicans who could be persuaded to let citizens vote on whether to extend the vehicle license fee and other taxes. Achadjian has been the target of ads by unions urging him to do so.
San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Chairman Adam Hill reiterated his unhappiness with the two local lawmakers for not agreeing so far to put the tax extension on the ballot.
“Who are our two state legislators listening to? Not the Board of Supervisors or the sheriff or any of our key department heads or the presidents of Cal Poly and Cuesta or any of our human services nonprofits,” Hill wrote in an email.
A preliminary look shows that some of the outcomes predicted last week remain more or less accurate, said Buckshi, the county’s budget analyst.
Last week, his office said that if the state’s vehicle license fee is reduced, the county could lose more than $2.9 million for the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Probation Department.
The Sheriff’s Department gets some auto registration money to fight sexual assault, the spread of methamphetamines and rural crime, among other things.
Dealing with all these offenses would be hindered, Buckshi has stated.
In addition, seven Sheriff’s Department jobs would disappear. And Probation, the Narcotics Task Force, the Juvenile Drug Court and other programs would be affected, the county says.
However, Buckshi noted, Brown’s revised proposal and the plan put forth last week by Republicans still differ in significant ways.
“The governor’s May revise still includes a major realignment of public safety and health and human services programs from the state to counties,” Buckshi wrote.
“Conversely, the budget released late last week by Republicans ... does not include realignment or the tax extensions. It appears the two sides are no closer to a budget deal now than they were five months ago.”
Another major concern is so-called “realignment.” That’s where the state would make some programs county responsibilities. Counties fear they would receive the responsibility without any money.
The proposed shift would create a need for 40 more corrections staff members at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, according to Buckshi’s report. The total cost for the additional inmates would be $4.8 million.
The Probation Department would get 134 more parolees to supervise, giving each probation officer a caseload between 68 to 73. Alternatively, the county could hire three additional probation officers at a cost of $236,000.
Mental health programs also could be cut, with the largest cuts to a program for youngsters known as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
In a budget scenario with the most cuts expected, that program would lose almost all its funding, eliminating “virtually all youth services” for the 2,000 youngsters in the program, as well as 40 to 50 jobs.
San Luis Obispo County Social Services Director Lee Collins was relatively sanguine about Brown’s revised budget proposal.
“(It) does not look bad at all. In all, the May revise seems to reflect the reality that public assistance programs took their big hit in the first go-around in March,” Collins said.
“One intriguing piece would be the (absorption) of the Healthy Families program into Medi-Cal,” Collins wrote. “In my view, this is long overdue.”
Healthy Families provides state-sponsored low-cost health insurance for children, teens and pregnant mothers. Medi-Cal is the state-run health coverage for California’s low-income and disabled citizens.
The increase in property tax and general fund revenue means $3 billion more for K-12 schools and community colleges statewide than Brown proposed in January — still $4 billion below what schools received in 2007-08.
San Luis Obispo County’s 10 school districts — anticipating the temporary sales, income and vehicle tax rates will not be extended — have already collectively proposed to cut $11.8 million from next year’s budgets.
“This is giving us a breather,” Mary Jarvis, assistant superintendent of business services for the county Office of Education, said of Brown’s new proposal. “I wouldn’t say it’s great news, but it is better than what I was looking at not too long ago.”
The county’s districts have cut close to $40 million over the past three years, county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker said.
School districts have laid off teachers, increased class sizes, cut extracurricular activities and started charging for transportation.
The Atascadero Unified School District board tonight will consider cutting and merging about half of its eight home-to-school bus routes, a move that would save about $106,987.
“This is better news than expected but still very painful for school districts,” said Russell Miller, assistant superintendent of business services for San Luis Coastal Unified, the county’s second-largest district.
Unlike most school districts in San Luis Obispo County, which receive state funding based on attendance, the majority of San Luis Coastal’s revenue comes from local property taxes. But it receives some state money for specific services and programs.
The district lost $2.5 million in state funding in the current year and could lose up to $10 million next year.
Meanwhile, the impact to Cuesta College was still being assessed Monday. President Gil Stork said the initial reaction from the Community College League of California appeared to be more positive than negative.
Last week, Cuesta’s board approved a $2.9 million budget cut for the next academic year, affecting about 120 employees. About $1.3 million more will also need to be cut from staff and operating costs, likely through furloughs or pay cuts.
The college must cut $5.3 million from its roughly $46 million 2011-12 general fund budget to account for anticipated state budget cuts.
Local officials are critical of Brown’s plan to dissolve redevelopment agencies.
“Any takeaway from (redevelopment) is a takeaway from job and business growth,” Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley said.
Redevelopment money in that city is tied up in repairs to the historic City Administration Building, downtown parking improvements and low-income housing.
In Paso Robles, redevelopment revenue has been used to rehabilitate Downtown City Park, build its library, aid in the establishment of a low-income childhood education center and finance low-income housing.
Dissolving Arroyo Grande’s agency would eliminate the city’s economic development efforts, reduce funding available for infrastructure improvements in commercial areas and cut most of its low-income housing efforts, City Manager Steve Adams said.
Grover Beach’s agency receives about $1.1 million annually. That money pays for a variety of local projects, low-income housing and efforts to support local businesses, City Manager Bob Perrault said.
Tribune staff writers AnnMarie Cornejo, Sarah Linn and Tonya Strickland contributed to this report.