The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved this fiscal year’s budget, a behemoth $932 million spending plan that represents an 8% reduction in spending from the previous year.
That decrease came as the county recovers from the CZU Lightning Complex fires, and the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which required a significant increase in spending.
“This budget represents our community’s first steps toward recovery as we emerge from these twin disasters, which have challenged all of us,” County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said. “At the same time, it lays the groundwork for a more just and equitable county government that serves the needs of all residents.”
The $653 million general fund, also approved Tuesday, represents a 5% increase from the previous fiscal year.
The largest chunk of the budget goes to the county’s Health and Human Services department, with 41.8%. Land Use and Community Service gets 24.5%, followed by Public Safety and Justice, with 18.9%.
Included in the budget is $1 million in funding for the new Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience, an office created in December to deal with emergencies such as the CZU Complex and earthquakes, but also to help residents recover from disasters.
The office, staffed by four people, is also tasked with future disasters, such as those caused by the effects of climate change.
Supervisor Zach Friend said the new department should publicize its efforts so more residents can know what services are available.
He added that the new department will do more than respond to disasters such as the CZU fire.
“I really view this as a consolidation of all climate resilience adaptation hazard mitigation work that this county does that’s currently housed in a lot of different worlds,” he said. “And it should be touched by all the different departments. Having a centralized place and having you be the face of that centralized place is very important.”
The budget also includes the new Housing for Health Division to address homelessness and the continuation of remote work policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide flexible work options for staff.
The plan also provides $1.2 million for apprenticeship training for residents to move into higher-paying careers, expand broadband access, and support women- and minority-owned businesses.
The supervisors also agreed to restore Focused Intervention Teams to address serial offenders in urban areas.
The weeklong series of budget presentations were the last for longtime Budget Manager Christina Mowrey, who is retiring in October after 32 years, county spokesman Jason Hoppin said.
Mowrey spent two years in the Auditor’s Office and 15 with County Parks before beginning oversight of the annual County Budget process.
For information, visit sccbudget.com.