Local News

Feb 24, 2010 12:16 AM by Ariel Wesler

County leaders get budget input from departments and public

A $40 million deficit leaves Santa Barbara County Supervisors no choice but to make massive cuts. The question remains. . .where?

The board heard presentations from department leaders about where to make possible cuts. The Sheriff's Department could be hit the hardest followed by County fire. County leaders are asking all departments to cut a combined $52 million over the next four months.

It's mission critical for Santa Barbara County leaders. Somewhere. . .somehow, they need to find at least $40 million. The public wasn't shy about offering some of its solutions.

"Perhaps your salaries should be reduced. Perhaps your staff should be reduced, said Willy Chamberlin," a former county supervisor

"Public safety is the single most important thing in local government," said another resident.

Because public safety makes up almost half the county's budget, that's where supervisors must look first. At worst, the sheriff's department would have to eliminate 15 percent of its workforce--more than 100 positions, including deputies. It would also shut down the Santa Maria jail.

"It would be a huge massive blow to the organization to have to make a cut that deep. . .We have an awful problem with overcrowding and cuts would just exacerbate that problem," said Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County

County fire would be understaffed at its Orcutt station and lose personnel for fire investigations and inspections.

With a fourth firefighter being gone, it further diminishes our capacity to perform our mission," said Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Michael Dyer.

But supervisors quickly realized they must find other solutions.

"Considering the fires that I've had in my district and we've had in our county, that's an area I'm not going to go down," said Supervisor Salud Carbajal

"To vote for something that's going to cause you to shut down the Santa Maria jail. . that's uncalled for. That just can't happen," said Supervisor Joe Centeno.
what will happen is the big question. . .a question with no easy answer.

The next budget meeting is schedule in Santa Barbara next Tuesday. County leaders must approve the budget by the end of June.

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