The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the 2024-25 proposed budget, a $1.12 billion plan that, while balanced, forecasts future financial troubles amplified by a projected $45 state billion budget deficit, and by more than $100 million in disaster costs that have not yet been reimbursed by the federal government.

The item passed 4-1, with Supervisor Manu Koenig dissenting.

To help address the deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom in May proposed more than $30 billion in spending cuts, the majority of which the state Legislature rejected in its counter proposal. Those cuts would have hit hard on education and human services.

“We were trending toward $8-plus million dollars of cuts, if the May Revise cuts held,” said Human Services Director Randy Morris. “The state legislature specifically rejected over 90 percent of those cuts.”

Newsom will present his final budget on June 15, and jurisdictions throughout the state are waiting with bated breath to see if the cuts he proposed in his May revise will remain.

“It’s very much in flux right now,” County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said. “There is a lot of uncertainty.”

The county is also saddled with numerous road repairs, having spent $349 million since 2017.  Of that, county officials had budgeted for just $297 million, Palacios said. 

“We overspent the budget  by more than $50 million on roads, because it was such a high priority of the county,” he said.

None of this was news to residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains, who have been waiting for repairs on a February landslide on Mountain Charlie Road—which has impacted about 100 residents and virtually isolated them.

Palacios said in a May 22 meeting that the county will not allocate tax revenue into maintaining county roads. 

“We have a large community that is in need of support,” said Hugh Scheiba, a 35-year resident. “I have to take care of my family, my children and my grandchildren, and this is really putting a strain on me personally and mentally, not only on myself [and] my family, but everyone else in our community. This is difficult. I ask that you consider different thinking than what has been done before in taking care of these roads.”

Supervisor Manu Koenig agreed. 

“The one service that the majority of county residents rely on is the roads, and we have to be partners in retaining them, and reducing fire risk and assuring access,” he said. 

County Budget Manager Marcus Pimentel said the county is “systematically underfunded,” a problem caused largely by the low amount of property tax it receives–13% annually, compared to a 20% state average.

That equates to $460 per capita in property taxes, while other jurisdictions get around $2000-$6000.

“We serve more than most, and we receive less than most,” Pimentel said. “That’s a bad recipe for being able to provide everything we need.”

Supervisor Zach Friend said that the increasing number of natural disasters—there have been seven over the past six years—has become a “functionally unmanageable situation.”

“We’re really transitioning from an investment based budget to a survival based budget in Santa Cruz County,” he said. 

The adopted budget is scheduled to be considered on Sept. 24, after the legislature revises the state budget.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


  1. I agree the county should raise property taxes to $6,000 per capita it worth that much to live in beautiful Santa Cruz county. It should be in line with beautiful NYC , Bayonne NJ. and Atlanta Georgia by the sea

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  2. If our taxes were raised in that amount, seniors would be priced out of their homes. While driving yesterday I noticed that South County has the worst roads while like Freedom Blvd, Buena Vista and other roads, while the roads in the wealthy areas of the county are nicely paved with potholes fixed. Why does South County get screwed while the wealthy areas have nicely paved roads.

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