Sutter County officials approved a recommended budget of about $374.8 million for Fiscal Year 2019/20, which reflects a status quo spending plan and a 4 percent increase in operating funds from the year prior. 

While the majority of that will go to various county departments for their associated costs, about $70 million (a 4.1 percent decrease from FY 2018/19) of that will go toward the county’s general fund, which is a pot of money supervisors have discretion over  throughout the year. 

“The CAO’s office and county departments worked tirelessly and collaboratively to close a substantial gap between projected revenues and requested appropriations, resulting in a recommended budget that is balanced by reducing operating costs where possible and prudent and with use of reserves only for one-time expenditures,” said Interim County Administrator Steve Smith in the recommended budget. “Difficult decisions were made and commendable work was done by the departments to reduce their costs and identify additional revenue. To ensure long-term fiscal stability, the county will have to continue to be focused and will likely have to consider service levels in the coming years.” 

With the recommended budget approved, officials will hold a budget hearing on July 23 at 1 p.m. at the Hall of Records building – 466 Second Street, Yuba City – to let the public comment on the document before the Board of Supervisors formally adopts the budget at a subsequent meeting.

Expenses

The county’s recommended budget is $374,805,126, which includes $369,840,275 in appropriations and $4,964,851 in increases in committed fund balances. In order to help balance the budget, the county used approximately $6.2 million in rollover funds from last year’s budget, as well as worked with departments to find efficiencies. 

Smith said salaries and benefits ($115,223,198) will be the biggest cost to the county, like most service-oriented businesses and organizations. The second biggest expense goes to services and supplies ($58,266,211) for things like office supplies, professional contracts, etc. 

In terms of large project expenses, the county has plans to renovate the former K-Mart building on Gray Avenue to be the future Health and Human Services headquarters. However, the bulk of those expenses will likely come out of next year’s budget, Smith said. 

This year’s operating budget increased by about $14.5 million from the year before. Of that, about $7 million represents adjustments to the Health and Human Services Department. The largest single budget adjustment of $9.5 million is for the Bi-County Behavioral Health Fund, which is meant to help address the significant growth in the number of clients receiving mental health and substance use disorder services. 

Of the $69,582,211 in general fund appropriations, the county recommends dedicating 31 percent for public safety, 25 percent for general government, 11 percent for health, and the rest split up among development services (8 percent), general services (7 percent), trial courts (7 percent), ag commissioner/farm advisor (5 percent), library and museum (3 percent), social services (2 percent) and contingencies (1 percent). 

Revenue generators

The biggest financial contributor to the overall budget is state revenue, which provided 43 percent of the total. Another 16 percent comes from federal revenue, 15 percent from property taxes and 11 percent from the use of reserves. The rest comes from charges for services (4 percent), roll forward fund balance (3 percent) and sales and use taxes (2 percent). 

For the general fund, 41 percent was generated through property taxes, 17 percent from charges for services and 9 percent from both state revenue and the county’s roll forward fund balance. The rest came from sales tax (6 percent) and use of reserves (3.5 percent). 

Smith said budgeted property taxes increased this year by 6.3 percent. However, sales tax revenues are estimated to decrease from $4.1 million to $3.96 million compared to last year.

Changes

Smith said this year’s budget doesn’t have any major cuts or layoffs. It actually allows for approximately 21 new Health and Human Services positions (paid for by a combination of federal and state funds), four positions to the Road Fund and two positions added to the sheriff’s office. The positions through the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office will allow for personnel focused on addressing the county’s homelessness issues and cold call-type services.

“The Community Service Officer positions are significant in increasing public safety services and assisting with homelessness issues prevalent in the community,” Smith said.  

Moving forward

The biggest challenge facing Sutter County in the years to come continues to be rising CalPERS costs.

“Like nearly every jurisdiction in the state, retirement costs through CalPERS will be growing steeply over the next 6-10 years,” Smith said. “Sutter County expects an annual increase of $800,000 in unfunded liability costs alone. This does not include the ‘normal cost’ associated with funding retirements of current employees. Additionally, funding for homelessness-related services and shelter operations is very important.” 

Other highlighted challenges included fire protection needs, aging facilities and multiple service locations, and new mandates without commensurate funding. 

The budget also highlighted the county Board of Supervisors’ top five priorities, which were homelessness, the Sutter Pointe development, budget and finance, strategic planning/leadership and facilities/consolidation.

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