The County of Sonoma released its 2020-21 recommended budget totaling $1.9 billion, which represents as flat 0.1% change increase from the current FY 2019-20 revised budget.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will be asked to review and approve the recommended budget starting June 10, hold budget workshops in August, and adopt a final budget in September. Utilization of the two-step process enables the County to respond to budgetary impacts associated with the Coronavirus emergency.
“The current economic environment and pending state/federal financial support to counties decisions makes this budget process one of hardest we’ve experienced,” said Susan Gorin, chair of the Sonoma County board of supervisors. “While our staff are diligently monitoring revenue sources and projecting declines, the true impacts are not fully known at this time. That’s why we’re implementing a two-step process to approve this year’s budget.”
The State of California County Budget Act authorizes the Board of Supervisors to approve the Recommended Budget before June 30, and adopt a Final Budget before October 2. The County of Sonoma typically approves a Final Budget in June; however, this year the County will implement the two-step process to allow more time to assess the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon county, state, and federal revenue sources.
The FY 2020-21 Recommended Budget includes an average of a 1.7% reduction of countywide operations. Due to the uncertain fiscal outlook, departments’ requests for funding considerations normally presented to the Board for consideration during June Budget Hearings will be postponed until the Final Budget Hearings scheduled for September, at which time staff hopes to have better revenue projections.
The local and statewide shelter in place orders have immediately impacted some of the County’s revenue sources, including sales tax, transient occupancy tax, proposition 172 funding, tribal mitigation funding, and charges for services. Since these revenue sources are directly impacted by the shelter in place orders, it is difficult to estimate if and when these orders may be lifted and/or re-instated over the next 12 months. Other revenue sources, including state and federal funding, impacts are unknown. At this time, the County is not estimating a large impact to property taxes for the FY 2020-21 budget, however, the County will monitor circumstances and revise estimates accordingly.
“This two-step process will give staff and the board of supervisors time to understand the true impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which isn’t fully known at this time,” said Sheryl Bratton, Sonoma County administrator. “In September we will ask the Board to consider budget adjustments that will result in a balanced FY 2020-21 budget that supports community recovery and fits within available means.”
The pandemic comes after two-plus years of fires and floods, which affected various economic revenue streams – the transient occupancy tax along with sales and property taxes. The proposed budget continues to show departments are limiting expenditures by aligning services with available resources.
“I’m so proud of our residents in Sonoma County,” Gorin said. “We have had disasters and difficulties over the past three years and we’ve consistently shown endurance and resiliency time after time. The future will not be the same as the past. Our economy, our priorities, our individual perceptions of what’s important have been reshaped. What hasn’t changed is our strength to come through each of these disasters as a stronger community.”
The recommended budget is available at sonomacounty.ca.gov/CAO/Public-Reports/Budget-Reports.