San Rafael, CA – Marin County’s new $540.7 million budget reflects 4 percent growth on expenditures, maintains current services, builds up reserves, pays down liabilities and reflects the County’s highest priorities.
County Administrator Matthew Hymel (left) and Budget Manager Bret Uppendahl speak at the budget hearings.
The Board approved the first year of a two-year budget June 22 following the second of two public hearings this week at the Marin County Civic Center as well as budget workshops in March. It was the second time the Board has adopted a two-year budget that encourages departments to plan in the longer term and be agile enough to respond to urgent community needs as they arise.
Board President Steve Kinsey, who is midway through his 20th and final year as a Supervisor and is retiring in December, credited all County departments, employees and community partners for providing a budget that is fully online and addresses the top priorities in a digestible way. He mentioned that the first budget he saw in 1997 was a continuous printout with perforated sides that “you could roll it out across the room” and was virtually unintelligible for public consumption.
“Today we have a fully visible document with lots of graphics, illustrations and links to social media,” Kinsey said. “This is really kind of a coffee table approach to educating the public about where their resources are being spent. … People can understand what it takes to have a government that works on their behalf.”
Budget Manager Bret Uppendahl said the new budget prepares for future economic uncertainty, focuses on long-term strategies, continues to pay down unfunded retiree obligations, and increases investments in roads, facilities and technology. “Because of our past decisions to reduce ongoing spending, the budget is balanced and structurally sound,” Uppendahl said.
Highlights of the budget include:
- Investing in Road Maintenance – including $19 million for road improvement projects, of which $7 million is supported by the General Fund
- Reducing Unfunded Retiree Liabilities - including a $1 million contribution to the pension rate stabilization reserve (bringing the total to $7 million), and a $10 million contribution to the retiree health trust fund, bringing the total balance to over $70 million
- Preserving Affordable Housing - including a $1 million contribution to the housing trust for the preservation of affordable housing for families and $450,000 for a new landlord incentive program
- Enhancing Mental Health Services and Homeless programs – including increasing ongoing mental health programs by over $2 million, $400,000 to implement the Homeless Outreach Team, and a one-time allocation of $525,000 to acquire mental health transitional housing
- Reducing Traffic Congestion/ Addressing Climate Change - $1 million to implement our Climate Action Plan, including $500,000 for new public transportation incentives for County employees and $500,000 for building investments to reduce our carbon footprint
- Implementing the 5 Year Business Plan – including $500,000 in ongoing technology investments to provide improved e-government options, and $1 million in one-time investments to implement e-government and mobile apps
The Supervisors described the budget as careful, deliberate, comprehensive, streamlined and responsive to public needs. They praised the emphasis on equity, customer service and technical innovation.
“There are a lot of things going well in our county, but what I get fired up about every morning is how we can look for ways to get better,” Supervisor Damon Connolly said. “This is a blueprint for doing so.”
Between 2008 and 2013, the County reduced more than $30 million in annual spending and cut its workforce by more than 200 positions, or 11 percent. A track record of fiscal discipline and the ability to reduce unfunded liabilities were primary reasons that all three independent credit rating agencies affirmed the County’s AAA credit rating in 2015.
Learn more about the budget on the County’s OpenGov webpage, a platform launched in 2014 to bring the budget process to a new level of financial transparency.