Staff Report

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will hold its budget hearing beginning at 9 a.m. June 9, and June 11 if needed. The public is encouraged to follow the proceedings via the County’s website, YouTube and on cable TV channel 20.  

For public participation during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to Important Notice Regarding Public Participation.

A budget workshop was held in April to provide the Board an opportunity to review the preliminary budget, discuss impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and receive public input in order to provide the County Executive Officer direction on policy issues or items for consideration prior to completion of the FY 2020-21 Recommended Budget for the Board’s consideration and adoption.  

The recommended operating budget is balanced at $1.19 billion, and ongoing costs are largely supported by ongoing revenues. 

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts will result in an estimated $21.7 million in revenue loss for the County (including $3.9 million in lost gas taxes) and $5.6 million in more costs for response in FY 2020-21, but the length and extent of the impacts are still uncertain. Discretionary revenue sources, including sales and transient occupancy taxes, have all declined due to the pandemic. Additionally, the extent to which state and federal funds, which make up 35 percent of the County’s budget, will provide the County relief are still unknown until those budgets are adopted. 
Funding recommendations are based on the objectives of maintaining current service levels to the extent possible so as not to further impact members of our community, continuing to fulfill Board commitments and priorities, and investing in initiatives that will help mitigate recessionary impacts and prepare for the next normal and recovery. Funding to make up the gap is largely from reserves and cannabis tax revenue.

“We are facing an unprecedented emergency where counties are on the front lines, not just in regard to public health, but other critical safety net, emergency and public safety services” said County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato. “Our goal is to maintain essential services needed most by our communities during this time of crisis, to the best of our ability.”

Even with these uses, the Recommended Budget includes a Strategic Reserve, or “rainy day” fund, at $33.7 million, which is 7.6 percent compared to its 8 percent target. It also recommends a balance of $5 million in the Contingency fund, $1 million higher than the $4 million adopted in FY 2019-20.  

“These reserves in the General Fund are our first line of defense against further COVID-19 impacts,” said Jeff Frapwell, Assistant CEO/Budget Director. “We expect recovery of our key revenue sources to occur over the next two years,” said Frapwell. “But much of that will depend on the trajectory of the virus and the response of the economy.”

Essential priorities and commitments for the future include the following:

  • Construction of the Northern Branch Jail is expected to be completed this summer, with operations commencing by the middle of the fiscal year. The annualized operating cost is currently estimated at $20.4 million, and includes staffing costs to operate and maintain the facility, as well as costs for inmate medical services, food, utilities, and other necessities. Evaluation of the staffing needs of the combined jail operations will occur given the census of the jail during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Priority capital projects will be initiated in FY 2020-21. High-priority capital projects were identified in early 2019 for potential Certificate of Participation (COP) funding, and COPs are expected to be issued within the next year. Major projects include Public Safety Radio Replacement, Probation Department Headquarters, Main Jail Renovations, Cachuma Lake Park Infrastructure Replacement and Upgrades, and Emergency Operations Center Expansion.
  • Criminal justice partners and Behavioral Wellness continue to implement major initiatives to reduce the numbers of mentally ill individuals entering the criminal justice system and increase referrals to appropriate mental health services, funded through new grant programs.
For information about county government, go to