Marin Budget Hearings Ask for Reductions for First Time in 5 Years

Public invited as Supervisors are briefed on each department’s workplan

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.29.22 PM.pngSan Rafael, CA – Next week the Marin County Administrator will present recommendations to close a $5.6 million budget gap over the next two years. It’s the first time in five years that the County is asking for budget reductions from departments.

Each County department will present highlights of their proposed workplan for next year when the public budget hearings begin Monday, March 26, and conclude Wednesday, March 28. Residents are invited to comment after the initial budget overview or after each department’s presentation. The hearings will be in the Board chamber of the Marin County Civic Center, Suite 330, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael.

County Departments and budget staff from the County Administrator’s Office are in the process of creating a two-year budget that runs through 2020. The two-year process provides a longer-term lens to strategic planning. Departments have been working on belt-tightening budget reduction options the past few months. The final vote on the budget will take place in June.

The County is operating under a $440 million General Fund budget for 2017-18. Budgetary shortfalls are projected to begin in 2018-19 because of slowing property tax growth, increasing personnel costs, and increased costs to repair county infrastructure. If no corrective actions are taken, the County could face a shortfall of nearly $5.6 million by 2020, representing approximately 1.2 percent of the General Fund budget.

On February 6, the Supervisors conducted a workshop on long-term capital needs and discussed the more than $100 million in deferred maintenance at 44 County-owned buildings. Staff said 20 buildings need significant repair, and it was evaluating ways to fund $25 million in deferred maintenance of high-priority projects over the next five years.

The County’s largest source of discretionary revenue comes from local property tax. Growth in assessed values has slowed over the past few years, and long-term forecasts indicate an annual growth rate of approximately 5 percent, down from a recent high of 7 percent in 2015.

The largest slice of the County budget (more than 60 percent) is for personnel costs. Those costs have grown because of wage increases, health benefits, and workers’ compensation costs. The cost of maintaining County-owned facilities has grown as well.

The March workshops are designed for the public and the Board to provide feedback as the County Administrator prepares the proposed budget in June. In its recent State of the County report, the Board of Supervisors adopted the following priorities:

  • ensuring ongoing fiscal responsibility
  • maintaining quality roads
  • addressing housing needs, especially for the homeless
  • promoting fair and equitable solutions to all issues
  • adapting to climate change, and
  • enhancing emergency preparedness.

“As a team, we strive to make Marin a safe, healthy and sustainable community no matter what the budget forecast looks like,” County Administrator Matthew Hymel said. “As we live within our means, we are holding ourselves accountable and striving to make Marin an even better place to live and work.”

The budget workshops start at 10 a.m. Monday, March 26, with an overview from the County Administrator’s Office staff, an update on emergency preparedness and a public comment period. After lunch, the Board will begin receiving strategic planning updates from each department. The department updates will pick up again at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28.

The workshops conclude with consideration of the recommended budget adjustments and policy direction to help prepare the final budget for approval in June. Learn more about it and see a detailed schedule of the hearings on the County’s budget overview webpage.

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