Supervisors to review proposed county budget

The county Board of Supervisors will take its first official look Tuesday at a proposed annual budget that is down $25 million from last year’s.

The proposed spending this year is $442.7 million. Last year’s adopted budget was $467.7 million. The fiscal year covered by the budget begins July 1 and runs to June 30.

Despite the continued pain the recession has caused in recent years, the county’s chief budget analyst, Assistant County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi, said things may be bottoming out.

“There are a few signs that the Great Recession, which began in 2007, may be starting to ease,” Buckshi wrote in a report to supervisors.

Houses at the lower end of the residential market are beginning to sell more rapidly, for example, and the continued drop in sales tax revenue is beginning to end, he wrote.

Nonetheless, he added, times remain tough, as evidenced by a continuing budget shortfall, which is $17 million this year. That gap was $18 million last year and $30 million the year before.

“It appears as if we may be near the bottom of this economic cycle, but unfortunately the bottom is deep,” he wrote.

Buckshi’s report is an introduction to and overview of the budget. Supervisors will hear his report Tuesday and set a date for formal public budget hearings, most likely June 14.

Some of Buckshi’s main points:

• The budget postulates 2,400 positions, a net decrease of 43, all but two of which are vacant.

• Labor costs are the county’s biggest expense — 65 percent of total expenditures.

Buckshi wrote that while some employee organizations have made sacrifices to reduce the gap, “much work remains to be done.”

• The four public safety departments — Sheriff-Coroner, Probation, District Attorney and Fire — will have a higher level of funding than non-safety departments.

• Nevertheless, nine vacant positions in the Sheriff-Coroner’s Department will be eliminated, four at the County Jail. The sheriff has told administrators that those cuts would drive up overtime costs.

• Spending on roads would drop about 25 percent. Buckshi wrote that the department can sustain this because of state and federal funding in rent years. “County roads are in relatively good shape,” he said.

• San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport continues to spend more money than it brings in and will need a loan of $116,000.

Read the budget report

To read details about county budget proposals, visit http://sn.im/may18 agenda, and then scroll down to item D-2 in the Board of Supervisors agenda.