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SLO County may increase services for homeless amid predicted $5 million budget shortfall

Posted at 7:03 AM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 11:15:15-05

San Luis Obispo County's expenses are expected to outpace revenues by up to $5 million next fiscal year and County leaders are meeting Tuesday to discuss ways to minimize the impact.

Guy Savage, the County's assistant administrative officer, said slowed growth in the County's economy is partly to blame for the shortfall.

But in the grand scheme of things, Savage said, the anticipated deficit only represents about 1 percent of the County's total $500 million budget so he is not concerned any existing programs are in jeopardy.

Savage said the looming deficit is notable but still a far cry from the $30 million budget shortfall the County experienced during the Great Recession.

This year, SLO County experienced a deficit of $2 million, which resulted in a hiring chill, where certain positions were left empty to save money.

With the impact of the anticipated deficit expected to land in July 2020, County leaders are combing through the budget to see where gaps can be bridged.

Savage expects services will remain relatively the same but said the County will not be able to fund major expansions to any existing programs.

"If you look at the Board's priorities for this year, cannabis enforcement and ground water sustainability plans are coming off as we move into next year and that's primarily being replaced with homelessness," Savage said. "We anticipate the board will make homelessness, economic development, and continued focus on Stepping Up, which is a program to help keep mentally ill folks out of jail, will continue to be priorities."

Health and Human services and public safety, including the sheriff's office, fire departments, district attorney and public defender, take the biggest piece of the budget pie.

The primary revenue source is property taxes, along with 25 other funds including licenses and permits, fines, and charges for services.