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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 21st, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 23, Issue 17

Board of Supervisors debate unallocated budget funds

By Taylor O'Connor

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the 2022-23 budget 4-1 (with 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson dissenting), with a motion to divide unallocated funds between the county’s districts—a conversation that sparked heated debate between the supervisors.   

For the upcoming fiscal year, the county has a $1.4 billion budget, with an unallocated remaining $419,200 that staff recommended supervisors save for “emerging issues,” County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said during the June 14 budget hearings. 

But that thought began to morph after 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino brought up Growing Grounds—a nonprofit organization that provides farming opportunities for those experiencing mental health related issues in need of more funding—and asked that the county provide $200,000 to the organization. 

“One of the things I’m proud of is we’ve had no service level reductions over the last four years, but if this budget goes forward as we go right now, there will be significant service reductions,” Lavagnino said. 

Although he didn’t want to bring forward a new item at the last minute, Lavagnino said he wasn’t aware of the organization’s situation during the April budget workshops—when supervisors discussed potential allocations to address county needs—so it didn’t get included in the county budget. 

“If I have to find another $200,000, I will. We’ll figure it out. It might be some give and take to cut something that I agreed to in this budget that now doesn’t rise to the priority that this does,” he said. 

First District Supervisor Das Williams said that while Growing Grounds has done great work for the county, making last-minute adjustments could open a whole new can of worms for supervisors. 

“I think we have to think about whether partial funding for this group this year is worth opening up Pandora’s box. I guarantee you there are people that I’ve turned away, that others have turned away, that wanted to do the same thing,” Williams said. “They will be back next year, and they will be back in mass.” 

He reflected on “the old days” where there would be “knives to the jugular” for the last slivers of funding and said that last-minute proposal would push the supervisors back into those methods.

Lavagnino said he didn’t like the old approach either and apologized for bringing this on as a last-minute request, but he said he had to try. 

“If it’s something you’re not comfortable with, I’d rather you just say no than us changing the way we do things,” Lavagnino said. 

Williams said he understood why Lavagnino pushed to fund the organization, but his assumption that other districts didn’t have the same needs was not true and not right. 

“Then don’t vote for it,” Lavagnino responded. “It’s real easy.” 

Still, Williams advocated the supervisors divide up the remaining $419,200 after giving Growing Grounds the requested $200,000 to allocate between the districts for other projects or needs—which the majority of the supervisors agreed to in the final vote. 

“That would give his proposal the bigger share, which I think is cool because he hasn’t always leveraged things like he could. He’s been a team player and we should be a team player to him,” Williams said.










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