Stanislaus County's $1.34 billion preliminary budget for next year includes $35.6 million for roads and bridge construction.
Smaller cost items in the county's spending plan are body cameras for sheriff's deputies, additional prosecutors in the District Attorney's office and an Awesome Spot park feature for disabled children and adults.
The plan approved by supervisors Tuesday is part of a two-year budget process on the premise that longer-term planning is more fiscally responsible. The county budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The county foresees $73.7 million in additional spending, or a 5.8 increase over last year's adopted budget, that's attributed to higher costs of doing business, service level adjustments by departments and $56.6 million in increased expenditures on community health programs and road projects that are not an expense for the general fund.
Total revenues are up 5.2 percent. The county is on a solid financial footing, officials say, but the county remains cautious owing to the trauma of the Great Recession 10 years ago.
"We are making sure we can provide services we need to provide and continue to run a tight ship," county Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said in an interview this week. "We want to make sure we are fiscally strong for when the next downturn comes."
The district attorney’s budget calls for four new prosecutors and an investigator to assist with the criminal caseload.
The county budget includes $25.6 million in increased spending in the Sheriff's Department and $13.4 million in additional spending in Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. The mental health department will see extra costs for a Laura’s Law program, Drug Medi-Cal and placements in state hospitals and adult residential facilities.
County Supervisor Terry Withrow gave credit to BHRS for implementing new services, which are part of efforts to reduce homelessness and help those with severe mental illness. Board Chairman Jim DeMartini said he wants to see measurable results from the increased expenditures in BHRS.
The county is dedicating $250,000 for The Awesome Spot "inclusive playground" at the city of Modesto's Beyer Community Park. Partners are raising $2.5 million for the playground designed for people with disabilities.
The budget also sets aside funds for body-warn cameras for law enforcement, which were promised by both candidates for sheriff in the recent election. Hayes said staffing positions needed for operation of a body cam system are estimated to cost roughly $800,000 a year.
Hayes said the county budget cleans up unfunded full-time positions allocated to health services, the Sheriff’s office and Probation Department, along with some hiring to result in a net increase of three positions in the county workforce.
Eleven positions will be eliminated in the Probation Department mostly due to a statewide decline of juvenile offenders held in locked facilities. Seven of those positions will be reallocated elsewhere and 16 unfunded sheriff’s positions will be cut after custodial deputies switched from eight-hour to 12-hour shifts.
The change in work hours gave the deputies higher pay while reducing overall staff costs, Hayes said.