May 23, 2024
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SLO County unveils $852 million proposed budget for 2024-25

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San Luis Obispo County’s $852 million proposed budget for 2024-25 was unveiled at its inaugural State of the County program April 11.

“This is hot off the press,” Rebecca Campbell, the county’s acting administrative officer, said at the event at the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo.

“Our board (of supervisors) hasn’t even reviewed this in public yet,” she said. “So hopefully they’ll vote for it.”

The county, however, has a nearly $20 million budget deficit that will need to be bridged to balance the financial plan.

Campbell acknowledged that, saying the county “did work through some budget challenges this past year. But we have achieved an $852 million (proposed) budget.”

She noted that 68% of the recommended spending plan is for health and human services – $351 million – and public protection – $226 million.

The remainder goes to land-based (FYI – no word after “land-based”) ($69 million), reserves and contingencies ($53 million), support to county departments ($48 million), financing ($34 million), fiscal and administrative ($33 million), community services ($28 million), and capital projects and maintenance ($9 million).

Another focus of the program was homelessness and housing.

“There’s probably not any greater challenge from the perspective of an elected (FYI – again, no word after ‘elected’) than trying to solve the problem of homelessness,” county Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg said in one of several videos played at the event.

Supervisor Jimmy Paulding said in the same video that the county has a strategic plan to reduce homelessness by 50% in the next five years.

“That is quite a robust goal,” he said. “But we are making progress.”

To achieve it, the county needs to work with its seven cities, non-profit partners such as the El Camino Homeless Organization and Five Cities Homeless Coalition, and the community at large, he said.

An example of such a partnership is the Cabins for Change project in Grover Beach, which resulted from a collaboration between the county, the city, the Homeless Coalition, and private businesses. 

Nearly 90 people previously living in encampments have moved through the 20-bed facility into more permanent housing solutions, according to the county.

Toward the end of the program, the state of the county’s economy was the subject of a panel discussion moderated by Melissa James, president and CEO of Reach, a Central Coast economic development group.

One of the panelists, Josh Boswell, Reach’s vice president of policy and economic development, said the opportunities in the region are immense.

“The innovative industries in this region have a $1 billion annual impact,” he said.

Asked by James to address the county’s energy industry, Boswell said the Central Coast has been an energy hub for over a century.

One recent significant development in the sector, he said, was the state’s decision in December to extend the operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant through 2030.

That will result in 2,000 well-paying jobs remaining in the community, Boswell said.

As for the county’s aerospace industry, which James noted is more than just Vandenberg Space Force Base, Boswell said there is much opportunity that is not fully realized.

He said aerospace in the county has grown by 80% over the last two decades. 

“When we think of aerospace, this isn’t an L.A. story, this isn’t a Santa Barbara story, this is truly an SLO County story,” Boswell said.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com

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