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Monterey County leaders discuss $1.5 billion budget

Monterey County leaders discuss $1.5...

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. - UPDATE 6/5/2017 5 p.m.:

Monterey County department heads are battling for their piece of a $1.5 billion pie. On Monday, the Board of Supervisors heard from them and the public about where they want to see the money go. Crafting the budget has been challenging for the county.

"It is comprised of so many services we provide,” said Dewayne Woods, assistant county administrative officer. “So how do you gauge, how do you determine which services are priorities for the county given that we provide services from healthcare to public safety to roads and maintenance. The diversity of the services and bringing it all together in one package presents a complex challenge."

Whether it was veterans’ issues or affordable housing or getting access to Big Sur, different interest groups pleaded their cases to supervisors.

"What we're trying to accomplish today is to secure some funding for a Big Sur emergency shuttle, wherein people would be able to drive down to the accessible north section of Big Sur, get on a shuttle, hike a short bypass trail through Pfeiffer Canyon and get to the south side to be able to patronize those businesses who right now are completely cut off,” said Rick Aldinger, general manager of the Big Sur River Inn. “So, really it's to provide access to the south side, the inaccessible portion of Big Sur so those businesses can be open and we can get some more people back to work."

But one local group, Building Healthy Communities, with its partners, brought dozens of people to the board chambers to push the message – the budget should reflect the community it serves.

"We are a community that has a lot of folks undocumented, under-represented and therefore we believe our two major priorities, there should be investment in healthcare for the undocumented as well as more prevention services for the recently incarcerated," said Jesus Valenzuela, communications coordinator for Building Healthy Communities.

They believe the Monterey County Jail has been able to save more than $3 million each year since the passage of Proposition 47. That is the voter-approved law that turned certain felonies into misdemeanors, releasing some inmates. They said they want that money to be used for community programs.

Sheriff Steve Bernal said the money isn’t there.

"The average population has gone down slightly, but if you remove just a few people from the housing area, it still takes deputy sheriffs to man that housing area,” Bernal said. “Now where we might see big savings is if we reduced our population to a point where we could actually close down a housing area and we don't need the deputy sheriffs to close down the housing area we could see significant savings but we just haven't seen that $3 million savings."

In the meantime, Bernal is trying to save nine vacant positions that could be on the chopping block, as staffing remains the department’s biggest obstacle.

The county is working with $117 million more this year than last year. But as the saying goes – more money, more problems.

"The difference between this year and last year is that we are still in a good growth phase but we're adding a lot of different programs that are creating much more services for the community but we are still facing the increase in PERS and salary and wages and those pressures will continue from year to year but we've got a lot of different programs that we're implementing, such as the Pilot Care Program and a lot of community based services," Woods said.

Supervisors will officially vote on the budget on June 27 and it takes effect on July 1.

ORIGINAL POST:

Monday, Monterey County department heads battled for their piece of $1.5 billion.

County leaders from public safety to health and social services outlined their case to the board of supervisors for their needs in the next fiscal year.

The board also heard from members of the community about what they would like to see.

The assistant county administrative officer, Dewayne Woods said creating the budget has been challenging.

“How do you determine which services are priorities for the county given that we provide services from healthcare to public safety to roads and maintenance so the diversity of the services and bringing it all together in one package presents a complex challenge,” said Woods.

This year’s budget is $117 million more than last year. The board is expected to vote on the next budget on June 27, then it will be in effect on July 1.

KION's Mariana Hicks will have the full story at 6 p.m. 


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