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County budget sees increase in spending
Stanislaus County

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors adopted the 2019-20 budget recently with spending increases of approximately three percent. 

The county spending plan covers the second year of the recently-adopted two-year budget cycle. When the Chief Executive Office released details of the county’s first-ever two-year spending plan in September 2018, the financial model went beyond the typical 12-month budget to promote long-range planning and create more time for county departments to manage their financial resources. 

The process of transitioning from an annual budget to a biennial one hasn’t come without missteps, said Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes in his budget message, including unintended confusion, “aha” moments that were too little, too late and the need to determine ways to fine-tune the process along the way. 

“The process hasn’t been perfect and I’m okay with that,” Hayes said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished so far and look forward to realizing some of the benefits of our hard work.”

The budget totals $1.4 billion in spending, with an increase of approximately three percent for all funds compared to last year’s adopted budget. It also contains a spending increase of $17.9 million, or 1.3 percent, higher than the proposed budget approved by supervisors in June.  The majority of that 1.3 percent increase over the earlier draft of the budget, $11.6 million, is attributed to a carryover of funds not spent in year one of the two-year budget plan.

The remaining $6.3 million in increases is primarily provided in support of public services, including $3.4 million in support to programs and services in the Chief Executive Office, like countywide initiatives and local agencies, shelter and Census 2020 projects in Focus on Prevention and application and annual licensing activities provided through the Cannabis Program, to name a few. Just over $1.2 million will be spent on developing information technology, and $1.1 million in increased insurance premiums and loss expense costs from the risk management division. An addition $175,000 will go to county programs and a new Cannabis Manager. 

The new budget  is balanced with $1.3 billion in estimated revenue and the use of $64.6 million in fund balance/retained earnings, a $3.9 million reduction in the dependence on county reserves when compared to last year’s reliance on one-time savings. The $1.3 billion in estimated revenue is an increase of 3.4 percent from last year’s budget. 

The county’s General Fund totals $377.6 million, an increase of $21 million or 5.9 percent over the total from last year. Discretionary revenue assumes 7 percent growth in sales and property taxes. The General Fund is balanced with the use of $20.3 million in reserves.

The new budget includes an increase of 20 county jobs over last year’s budget. However, the spending cut out 42 positions in the proposed budget. Those are tied to the Health Services Agency Clinic Consolidation Plan, with other adjustments to right-sizing in various departments and agencies. 

The county also received a boost from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May budget revise, with the governor committing to dedicate surplus funds to reserves and one-time spending with targeted investments in priority areas like homelessness, In-Home Support Services and additional resources for disaster response, recovery and prevention. Statewide, counties are allocated $275 million in funding dedicated to homeless shelters, navigation centers and supportive housing. 

Looking ahead, Hayes stated the two-year model is a “leap of faith,” but one that has dedicated more time to long-term planning for success. 

“We will continue to move forward with purpose, building upon the strong foundational plan we have laid, and make time to reflect on what works well, identifying areas that could use a little fine-tuning. We will make positive strides and grow from our successes,” said Hayes. “We will also embrace our vulnerability, seeking continuous improvement through the inevitable missteps along the way. We will work to celebrate imperfection, recognizing its ability to serve as a catalyst for learning and creative solutions. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”