Supervisors pass strongest County budget ever

VENTURA, Calif. – The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a budget of $2.309 billion for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 on June 17, 2019. It is the strongest budget in County history and, overall, is slightly higher – 3.2 percent – than the current budget. The County budget is almost twice as large as the county’s 10 city budgets combined.

“The budget is balanced” said Mike Powers, County Executive Officer. “We’re evaluating everything we do to improve efficiency, spend taxpayer dollars effectively and reduce costs while delivering critical safety, social, and health care services in areas including mental health, child welfare and homelessness. The budget dedicates funds for continued investments in infrastructure and technology while at the same time, increasing the unassigned, or ‘rainy day’ fund, to $150 million, the highest level in County history.”

This increases the Unassigned Fund Balance to 13.1 percent with the ultimate goal of achieving 15 percent.

While the budget maintains funding for the Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC) hospital and clinic system, the leadership, physicians and staff are focused on capturing all revenue sources, controlling expenses and increasing volumes through system efficiencies with the anticipation that these initiatives will enable the hospital and clinic system to attain a balanced budget in the near future.

Part of VCMC’s budget initiatives include a reduction in force, and HCA Director Bill Foley and his team will be engaging Santa Clara Valley communities including Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru, in a strategic planning process that will evaluate and plan for the health care needs of the communities including more efficient use of Santa Paula Hospital.

The adopted budget includes increases for Public Safety offices including the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender, Sheriff and Probation Agency. These increases reflect the County’s commitment to public safety and include local law enforcement services under contract with the cities of Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai and Thousand Oaks; and fire services to all cities in the county except for Ventura and Oxnard. Additionally, the budget allows the County to continue the many services and programs it offers within the incorporated cities including health care, recreation, surveying, restaurant inspections, mosquito control, weights and measures, and many more.

The budget also maintains services expanded over the last five years through the Affordable Care Act, including enhanced substance use disorder treatment services, the expansion of foster youth and mental health services. It also maintains previously expanded services in Adult Protective Services, In-Home Support Services and Children and Family Services.

“This year, the Board went a step farther and included one-time allocations for several key initiatives,” said Powers. “These include programs and services for homelessness and health and safety.”

Specifically, the special allocations include:
• A $2 million fund set aside to provide 50/50 matching funds for cities creating permanent shelters for the homeless.
• Bike lane construction throughout the county.
• $1.5 million in support for the establishment of a free clinic on the west side of the county.

“Homelessness is a continuing priority in our community and for our Board, and this budget helps address some of the underlying issues that the community faces,” said Supervisor Steve Bennett, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We are entering into a financial agreement with the City of Ventura to share the ongoing costs to operate a permanent shelter at our facility on Knoll Drive.”

The County is working with the City of Oxnard to establish a permanent year-round facility in that city this year as well.

The current fiscal year general fund budget is on track and departments are projecting to end the year at or under budget with a projected positive fund balance of at least $20 million. Any excess funds will be allocated to reserves. The County’s Lean Six process improvements program has resulted in cumulative savings of about $35 million since its implementation in 2009. The pension systems’ funding ratio has also increased to 87.8 percent, with savings from pension reform.

The County’s long-term commitment to fiscal discipline continues to be rewarded as both Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s have rated the County’s long-term and short-term credit ratings at their highest levels.

“The managers and employees are doing a great job of managing their budgets and staying within their budgets,” said Powers. “Under the Board’s direction and support, our employees have reduced costs, enhanced revenues and lowered overhead. We are focused on long-term financial viability and we will continue to use multi-year forecasts as a guide to maintain our structural balance.”

 

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