2018 year in review
From our Supervisor
January 5, 2019
I am grateful for the honor and privilege of serving Kern County's Second District on the Board of Supervisors. Together, we have accomplished much, and this newsletter focuses on some of the highlights for Kern County and the Second District.
Kern County Budget Update
The Board of Supervisors passed the county's budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. We are in year three of our 4-year plan to eliminate the General Fund structural deficit, after several years of falling oil prices and rising employee benefit costs. All county departments, except for Kern County Fire, have endured cuts during our 4-year plan, but the Board and I have asked your county government to maintain service levels despite these cuts. The efforts of every county department head and employee to find cost savings, and do more with less, has resulted in a reduction of the structural deficit from $44.5 million to $18.8 million this year. I am very proud of our county workforce.
Continuing the Board of Supervisors' commitment to prioritizing public safety, the Sheriff's Department and Fire Department will see NO cuts in this year's budget.
On a positive note, this year we anticipate higher property tax revenues due largely to the increased price of a barrel of oil. Overall, property tax revenues are expected to rise 3.5 percent, which equates to a $7 million increase to the General Fund. Even with this increase, we still need to remain vigilant with our budget reduction plan, as employee pension costs continue to increase dramatically. In fact, pension costs for the county have increased approximately 70 percent over the last 10 years.
In addition, it is still very challenging to erase the deficit in the County Fire Fund. Once again, pension costs for the Fire Department are largely to blame for those challenges. Of the county's overall $18 million deficit, the Fire Fund accounts for $7.5 million of it. The Board is committed to providing support to the Fire Department to solve this problem, and ensure it is fiscally secure.
Amazon Moving to Kern County
Kern County was recently the recipient of some great economic development news! A new, 2 million square-foot Amazon Fulfillment Center is coming to Kern County. It will be located near the Meadows Field Airport in unincorporated Kern County, and will initially create up to 1,500 jobs, with room to grow. With each new job created, there is a multiplier effect where other, indirect jobs are also created, bringing more economic growth to the county. I am excited that the county's economic development efforts are working effectively, and our economy is growing and diversifying.
Kern County's Homeless Census
This past year the County has heard from citizens and homeless service organizations about the need for a plan from the County to address the issue of homelessness in our communities. In May, the County hired Jose Gonzalez as the Homeless Coordinator for the County, tasked with working with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative and other community organizations to draw up a plan to alleviate the homeless problem in Kern.
Kern County is proud to partner with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative and is calling on our local residents to participate in the 2019 Point-in-Time homeless Count that will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 30 from 4 to 8 a.m.
The 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count will assist the Kern County Homeless Collaborative to strategically analyze and address the housing and service needs of individuals and families who require assistance. The data gathered during the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count also helps identify local trends and other critical statistics among our homeless population.
The following 11 cities/unincorporated communities have been identified with the greatest need for homeless count volunteers: Arvin, Lamont, California City, Delano, Frazier Park, Lost Hills, McFarland, Mojave, Rosamond, Taft and Tehachapi. I strongly encourage and support residents of these geographical areas to seize this opportunity to provide an invaluable service to our community and to offer your knowledge of the specific region to reach as many people in need as possible. Even if you don't reside in these areas, this is our collective opportunity to make a tangible impact on improving the lives of our most vulnerable population.
All volunteers will be required to attend a 2-hour training session, which will be offered in January, with specific training dates and locations to be announced in the immediate future. Varying time slots for each training session will be offered for your convenience. Volunteers will also be outfitted with the tools they need to conduct the count, including flashlights, the survey instrument, pens, clipboards and the care packages (small toiletries, light snacks, etc.), which are being assembled by the Kern County Homeless Collaborative.
Please visit http://www.endkernhomeless.org/volunteer_form to complete the short volunteer profile. It is extremely important to select the city/location where you wish to volunteer. Also attached for your consideration is the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count Flier. You are encouraged to share this information with your friends, families and civic groups and encourage them to sign up and participate in the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count as well.
If you have any questions please contact Jose Luiz Gonzalez, Homeless Initiative Coordinator at (661) 868-3126 or via email at [email protected]
No Kill Initiative
For the past several years, Kern County has embarked on an endeavor to become a "No Kill" county at our animal shelter. This is the humane and responsible way to handle our pet overpopulation problem, and one that we have had success with due to the dedication of the public, local humane societies and organizations, free and reduced charge spay and neuter clinics, and, of course, our County Animal Services staff. I am pleased to report we have made much progress.
Just shy of 1,500 fewer animals have been euthanized from November 2017 to November 2018, the Kern County Animal Services Department (KCAS) reports. KCAS is finding live outcomes (adoptions or other humane transfers of animals) for just over 75 percent of all animals coming into County shelters. This is a remarkable turn around in animal lives saved - in 2010 for instance, the county had to unfortunately euthanize 75 percent of all animals received at our shelters.