Supervisors OK $900-Million Spending Plan : County: Budget includes temporary funding to keep seven libraries open and cuts 37 positions, about half in layoffs.

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Ventura County supervisors approved a $900-million spending plan Tuesday that provides temporary funding for libraries but cuts deeply into mental health and social service budgets.

The county budget calls for about $6 million in departmental cuts and the elimination of 37 positions, about half in layoffs, for the 1995-96 fiscal year.

The plan includes a $1-million contribution to keep seven county libraries from closing immediately. But the money is only enough to keep the branches open until March, while officials scramble to find a more stable source of funding.


“It’s a Band-Aid,” said Dixie Adeniran, director of the Library Services Agency. “But we’re glad to have it.”

The largest departmental reductions are $1.8 million for Mental Health Services and $1 million for Public Social Services.

The cuts will result in the loss of seven state hospital beds reserved for the severely mentally ill and five nursing home beds, agency Director Randall Feltman said. Three vacant positions in the mental health department also will be eliminated, he said.

“Services are going to be stretched further,” Feltman said. “But the need has not decreased, and our job is to do the best we can with the resources we have. We’re just going to have to work harder.”

The $1-million cut in Public Social Services will come mostly from administration and will result in the elimination of 22 positions, with more than half in layoffs, officials said.

“There are going to be about 14 or 15 people out the door,” said Barbara Fitzgerald, the department’s deputy director. The staff reductions could cause delays in qualifying people for food stamps and Medi-Cal benefits, she said.


“We’re very, very disappointed,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of people are thinking, ‘What is the purpose of county government?’ I thought it was to provide services.”

In other areas, the supervisors agreed to cut $2.5 million from the county’s maintenance and capital project budgets and a total of $500,000 from their own budget, the chief administrator’s office and the personnel department.

Also, the county’s budget plan borrows more than $13 million from reserves and other savings to close a $19 million spending gap this fiscal year. Supervisors will face a similar-sized deficit next year.

Some county programs and services threatened with cutbacks were spared the budget ax Tuesday.

The board, for instance, voted to restore $110,000 to preserve the veterans’ services office and $496,000 for court services. The panel also provided $164,000 in additional funding for the assessor’s office, $420,000 for the auditor-controller and $13,900 for ocean monitoring and the posting of signs warning of sewage spills.

Money for these programs came largely from unanticipated increases in property tax revenues, business license fees, insurance savings and other areas, officials said.


Although the Library Services Agency was given a reprieve with the $1 million county contribution, Supervisor Maggie Kildee and her colleagues on the board stressed that it was only a temporary solution.

They also noted the county is not mandated to provide library services and that it is up to the cities and residents of the county to come up with another funding plan. Ojai and Ventura have agreed to place parcel tax measures on the November ballot to help pay for their libraries.

“We care about libraries so much that we have given them an additional nine months” of funding, Kildee said. “We put a Band-Aid on [the problem],” she added. “But there are no more Band-Aids.”

Supervisor Judy Mikels summed up the feelings of her board colleagues after the budget was approved.

“Hallelujah,” Mikels said. “We got through it. We have done what we said we were going to do and we’re still intact as a family. Next year things will be tough, but when we’re at a zero deficit, I think we will all be much better off.”


Budget Cuts Ventura County departmental cuts for fiscal year 1995-96:

Maintenance: $2 million

Mental Health Services: $1.8 million

Public Social Services: $1 million

Capital Expenditures: $500,000

Personnel Department: $332,000

Chief Administrative Office: $287,000

Board of Supervisors: $107,000

* $6 million

* All figures have been rounded off.

Source: Chief Administrative Office