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Final Stanislaus County budget sees increase in spending
Stanislaus County

The Stanislaus County Chief Executive Office released the 2019-2020 Recommended Final Budget last week, which will serve as the final spending plan for County operations during the second half of the recently-adopted two-year budget cycle.

With the release of the Recommended Final Budget, the operational plan for year two of the spending cycle is fully set, utilizing a model that is meant to streamline processes and promote performance reflection while maintaining transparent fiscal responsibility. 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.

Since then, the process of transitioning from an annual budget to a biennial one hasn’t come without missteps along the way, Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said in his 2019-2020 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.

Embracing vulnerability is all a part of the process, Hayes added, which in turn provides trust and courage to forge ahead towards success.

“In other words, 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 final budget proposal totals $1.4 billion in appropriations, with an increase of approximately three percent for all funds compared to last year’s adopted budget and a $17.9 million, or 1.3 percent, increase above the Adopted Proposed Budget for 2019-2020 that was approved by the Board of Supervisors in June.

The majority of that 1.3 percent increase over the earlier draft of the budget, $11.6 million, is attributed to the Performance Visioning Carryover Savings program transfers, which was implemented as part of the two-year budget model and allows General Fund departments to transfer savings realized in year one to their year-two budget at Final Budget.

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 go towards information technology development, and $1.1 million reflects increased insurance premiums and loss expense costs from the Risk Management Division. An addition $175,000 will go towards Countywide programs and a new Cannabis Manager in the Chief Executive Office.

Budget Year 2019-2020 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 included in the Final Budget is an increase of 3.4 percent from the amount projected in the 2018-2019 Adopted Final Budget, and 0.4 percent over the 2019-2020 Adopted Proposed Budget.

The General Fund totals $377.6 million in the 2019-2020 Recommended Final Budget, representing an increase of $21 million or 5.9% over the total from the 2018-2019 Adopted Final Budget. Discretionary Revenue assumes 7% growth in property tax revenue, and stable sales tax revenue. The General Fund is balanced with the use of $20.3 million in fund balance for a total Net County Cost of $276.3 million.

The Final Budget also represents an increase of 20 positions from 2018-2019, but a decrease of 42 positions from the 2019-2020 Adopted Proposed Budget. A majority of the reductions are tied to the Health Services Agency Clinic Consolidation Plan, with other minor adjustments attributed to right-sizing in various departments and agencies.

The County also received a boost from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May 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,” Hayes said. “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.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted the 2019-2020 Recommended Final Budget for Budget Period 2018-2019/2019-2020 – Year 2 with a 5-0 vote on Tuesday.