Officials: Budget woes threaten public safety needs in Yuba County | TheUnion.com

Officials: Budget woes threaten public safety needs in Yuba County

Jake Abbott
Special to The Union

Yuba County has public safety needs that aren't being met, and officials expect the problem to get worse.

Sheriff Steve Durfor said the county's situation has become dire, and if something isn't done soon to address fiscal shortfalls the issue will continue to get worse.

That's why Durfor, county Administrator Robert Bendorf and Linda Fire Protection District Chief Rich Webb say additional funding is needed to help address the deficits public safety entities are facing. Without it, critical services will not be able to keep up with demand and further cuts will need to be made.

Yuba County officials will go in front of the Board of Supervisors to lay out what the county's public safety needs are and potential options to help close the financial gap. Essentially, the county's options are to eliminate more services and programs countywide or increase the sales tax.

However, the county doesn't want to make that decision without the public's input, Bendorf said.

"We won't be asking the board to do anything specific, but one of the options we will be presenting is to let the residents decide whether they would want to see something like that put on the ballot," he said. "We plan on going to the board to demonstrate the public safety needs we face. If the board gives us direction to let the residents decide, we will immediately begin outreach through informal polling in the upcoming weeks."

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General funds

Approximately 70 percent of the county's general fund goes to public safety – including the district attorney's office, the sheriff's department, juvenile hall, victim witness services and probation department. The rest is allocated to all other county departments and services, such as public health, emergency services, elections, etc.

Bendorf said general fund revenues have decreased significantly since the economic downturn close to a decade ago. For example, before the recession took hold, the county's general fund reached about $34 million. But by fiscal year 2012-13, the county experienced a drop of about $10 million in revenue. Since then, revenues have somewhat recovered, albeit slowly. The 2017-18 general fund is an estimated $28.5 million.

On top of that, state and federal unfunded mandates have added to the cost of doing business for public safety entities, Bendorf said, making it harder for the county to return to pre-recession levels.

"There is no end to this," Durfor said. "We have got to find a way, collectively with input from the public, to determine what we want our sheriff's department and other public safety agencies to look like moving forward. It's truly a very dire situation we face."

Jake Abbott is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at jabbott@appealdemocrat.com

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