For the second year in a row, Tulare County’s budget is over $1 billion. County Administrative Officer Michael Spata presented his recommended budget overview for fiscal year (FY) 2016/2017 at the September 13 Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. The BOS will continue the public hearing on the budget to the September 20 meeting ,when they anticipate giving final approval.
Spata began his presentation by saying, “In its broadest sense, the recommended budget for fiscal year 2016/17 exceeding $1 billion is balanced, fiscally sustainable and structurally sound.
“The proposed budget reflects the direction of the Board of Supervisors that Tulare County is ‘Open for Business’ and the Board’s direction is implemented through a robust Economic Development Strategy guided by a Strategic Management System.”
Interest in reviewing raises for elected officials was suggested by Supervisor Pete Vander Poel, and it was suggested the conversation could continue during the next public hearing on the budget. In particular, he was interested to know the last time Sheriff Mike Boudreaux got a raise. The sheriff is paid less than his peers in other counties and Vander Poel added that, “Sheriff Boudreaux has been doing an outstanding job the last two years.”
Jose Sigala, local representative for the Service Employees International Union, approached the dais and said that Sheriff Boudreaux received a two percent raise last year, just as the rest of the Board of Supervisors did. As part of approving the budget, if certain elected officials get a raise, then the BOS automatically gets a raise, which is anticipated in this budget. Sigala said that these passive raises voted on by the BOS is something that newly elected Amy Shuklian promised to try and change once she takes office.
The exact Tulare County budget for 2016/2017 is $1,182,351,937–which translates into a 1.64% increase over last year. The county’s percent increase is consistent with economic growth throughout the state and country. The country’s overall growth is estimated to be 2%. There has been a drop in the Consumer Price Index and less than 1% inflation. National unemployment is 4.9% while Tulare County’s unemployment rate is at 11.3%.
When putting together the county’s budget, Spata took all these indicators into consideration and used “cautious optimism.” Any increases in expenditures were done with an eye on the economy which could stagnate or see a downturn.
The one bright spot in the indicators for the future of the economy has been the number of building permits. In FY 2014/15 there were 3,369 building permits at a valuation of $126 million. In FY 2015/16, there were 4617 building permits representing $324 million of added value to the county.
The increase in building permits is that much more significant because the largest contributor to the county’s budget is property taxes. The second largest contributor is sales tax. Both have increased by six to seven percent in the last two fiscal years.
The BOS and Spata’s priorities in allocating funds are public safety, economic well being, quality of life and how successful each of its entities has been. Spata’s philosophy is to make a budget that works for today but plans for the future. That means that the county will not spend all of the income it received in 2015 but will leave money for the future in case there is another recession.
Spata added that California’s budget is balanced and sustainable, meaning that the state should not have an adverse effect on Tulare County as has happened in the past.