More than $3 million to fix bad roads, $1 million to regulate marijuana and $500,000 to plan for affordable housing are among the proposed increases in next year’s budget for San Luis Obispo County.
In addition, service levels are expected to increase in some areas, particularly in public safety — one of the county’s four priorities. The recommended budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes staff increases in the county Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, which plans to establish a consumer fraud and environmental protection division with an additional $315,000.
On top of providing services like law enforcement, the county is faced with new demands from state voters and legislators.
It has to pay to implement rules for the historic legalization of commercial marijuana; affirm its role in the state’s plan to manage groundwater; and decide whether to pay $770,000 for in-home care services for more than 2,000 seniors and disabled residents through a program that the state may no longer fund.
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Meanwhile, uncertainty with the state and federal budgets has trickled down, requiring the county to build flexibility into the budget for programs and services that may need local funds to survive, such as medical care for indigent residents.
With divergent strategies on how to spend about $13.7 million of discretionary funds, supervisors are expected to clash in this week’s hearings on the proposed $590 million budget. The hearings begin Monday at the County Government Building on Monterey Street.
Here are some of the proposed budget increases that county staff recommended or that supervisors told staff to include. They do not reflect the total amount that would be spent on each category.
$3.5 million for roads
Road maintenance was made a priority for this year’s budget, at the request of Supervisor Debbie Arnold.
An extra $3.5 million has been set aside, bringing the total amount proposed to spend on road maintenance to $11.6 million. That’s “considerably higher” than other counties’ contributions, in part because other cities and counties tax themselves for road funds. County voters last fall rejected a sales tax increase for transportation improvements.
Still, the money would only allow the county to keep up with the ever-increasing degradation of more than 1,300 miles of roads.
$2 million to pay for groundwater plans
The county would shoulder the expenses of implementing groundwater plans for some unincorporated areas to meet the state requirements under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a move that was supported by supervisors Debbie Arnold, Lynn Compton and John Peschong.
The expense to this year’s budget is tallied at $1.25 million to the general fund, and an additional $750,000 to the Flood Control District.
$1 million to regulate marijuana
Californians legalized recreational marijuana last November, and the county will begin issuing licenses for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses next year.
The recommended budget allocates about $1 million from the general fund for two new positions in the Sheriff’s Office, two code enforcement officers, one administrator for licensing, two staff in the Agriculture Department to enforce pesticide rules, and an attorney and legal clerk for consulting services to help craft regulations.
$500,000 for affordable housing
The county proposes to approach the problem of a lack of affordable housing across the county with consultant services to develop rules for accessory dwellings, such as granny units and farmworker housing. The recommended budget proposes $250,000 from the general fund toward each issue.
Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson have proposed cutting millions from roads and groundwater management to put $5 million toward affordable housing, saying it’s a critical need.
$502,000 in services for homeless
The county would continue the 50Now program to house and provide intensive services to 50 of the county’s most vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals. County staff did not recommend increasing the program to serve 65 people for an additional $126,000.
$226,000 to fight gangs
The Gang Task Force would see additional staff from the Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office, with a general fund contribution of about $127,000 and an additional $99,000 from state funds. County staff did not recommend adding another sheriff’s deputy at a cost of $180,000. They also declined to recommend adding two sheriff’s deputies in the Shandon area for $340,000.
$136,000 for jail medical services
The Health Agency would hire another nurse to work with inmates who have extensive medical needs to provide medical case management and community re-entry services. The recommended budget allocates $95,245 from the general fund to be combined with $40,800 funds from Realignment to pay for the position.