One of the many responsibilities of a county supervisor is to review and approve Monterey County’s budget. The total budget is now just shy of $1.9 billion. However, that $1.9 billion is not just one big lump sum to be spent on whatever the Board of Supervisors decides.
Significant amounts are appropriated relatively independently, such as the $422 million annual budget of Natividad Medical Center. Natividad Medical Center is one of just a handful of medical centers and hospitals run by counties in the state. It operates as an enterprise fund, which means that Monterey County taxpayers do not subsidize its operations. The medical center’s operations fund itself.
Other programs, such as those found in many Social Services or Health Department programs, are funded by the federal or state governments with the county’s role being to administer those funds. There are also obligations like pension contributions that are required by law. While accountability for all these budget items rests with the Board of Supervisors, the Board does not manage these funds as directly it does with other programs in the General Fund.
By subtracting these departments, obligations and programs, $836 million is left in the General Fund. Even then, many of those funds are highly restricted. Out of the $1.9 billion, only $322 million is truly discretionary, which means it is under the full control of the Board of Supervisors.
No matter what happens, Monterey County must have a balanced budget. It also must have enough reserves to cover expenses during an emergency or dramatic economic downturn. At the beginning of the current fiscal year, the county had $79.5 million in strategic reserves to meet these types of unexpected events. The flooding disasters that struck Monterey County this year consumed between $55-60 million of the strategic reserves.
During an emergency, the federal government, through FEMA, will reimburse the county for close to 95% of those funds if the emergency expenditures meet federal guidelines. This is why the county was very specific about the process for cleaning Pajaro and required trash to be segregated at the roadside.
Unfortunately, reimbursement from FEMA is a very slow process. During 2017, storms caused enormous damage to Monterey County infrastructure. That was six years ago. Since then, Monterey County has only been reimbursed for two-thirds of the funds owed to us from that disaster. The millions spent this year might not be reimbursed until 2030 or later.
During the budget period, various county departments make presentations where they request additional funding for the coming fiscal years. These are called augmentations. Only a small percentage of these are approved. Each supervisor has their own priorities. For any augmentation to be approved, it requires a majority of the Board of Supervisors to support it. Any supervisor who wants something for his or her district must also appreciate the needs of fellow supervisors and their districts in order to get the necessary support.
For the upcoming fiscal year, my priorities are services that affect the public directly, like roads, animal services, sheriff patrols, parks and building permits. The opportunity doesn’t always come to advocate for these items every year, but I am always on the lookout for any way that I can squeeze a few dollars into improving the quality of life of Monterey County residents, and, in particular, the long-neglected needs of District 2.
The Budget Hearings are happening tomorrow, 5/31 and Thursday, 6/1 and you can attend in-person at 168 W. Alisal St. in Salinas, or via Zoom (https://montereycty.zoom.us/j/224397747).
As always, don't hesitate to reach out to my office for assistance. You can reach us at 831-755-5022 or email@example.com.
District 2 Supervisor