After emerging from years of austerity under the aptly titled Seven Year Pain Plan, San Luis Obispo County’s fiscal outlook is much rosier for the coming year, county administrators reported during annual budget hearings on June 9 and 11.
The double-whammy of a budget deficit and the nationwide 2008 recession caused county officials to enact the Seven Year Pain Plan, starting in fiscal year 2008. Though the plan imposed harsh cuts across the board, it was also successful in narrowing the county’s budget deficit from a high of $30 million in 2009 to a low of $2 million in 2012.
During a SLO County Board of Supervisors hearing on June 9, Assistant County Administrative Officer Guy Savage reported that his office is now projecting a budget surplus of $5.8 million for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins on July 1.
“We look at our main revenue sources like sales tax revenues, property tax revenues, and transient occupancy tax revenues—and we see all of those items increasing—then we can project a surplus,” Savage told New Times. “That really allows us to open up our budget.”
Savage said the county will still be spending prudently, but added that the surplus gives the county newfound flexibility to restore or—in some cases—increase service and funding levels that had previously been lowered.
The proposed county budget for fiscal year 2014-15 weighs in at $525 million, a 3.9 percent increase from last year’s $505 million budget. County supervisors tentatively gave the overall package their unanimous approval during hearings on June 9 and 11.
Areas in line for budgetary boosts include capital projects, road improvements, and county reserves. After 61 full-time equivalent (FTE) county jobs were added in the middle of the 2013-14 fiscal year, 38 additional FTE positions are proposed for the coming year.
According to Savage, most budgetary specifics have been debated, tweaked, and ironed out over the eight-month process of drafting the plan. County supervisors are expected to formally pass the budget on June 17.
The entire 2014-15 Proposed SLO County Budget is available to review online at www.slocounty.ca.gov/admin/Budget.htm.