SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new interactive budget website that allows community members to check up on the complex inner workings of the county’s finances, roughly one month before the board begins its annual budget hearings.
The website also provides access to the county’s Strategic Plan, Operational Plan and the Proposed Budget, this year a $1.033 billion plan that includes a $680.7 million general fund.
Users can also input their home address to learn more about representation and services in their neighborhood, county spokesperson Jason Hoppin says.
Budget hearings will be held on June 21, 22 and 28.
The $1.033 billion Proposed Budget includes a $680.7 million general fund, and includes upgrades at Juvenile Hall and funding for the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District.
It shows an increase in staffing of 48.30 positions, for a total of 2,723. Nearly all of this comes from the addition of the Public Defender’s Office into County services, which officially begins in July.
The budget also provides funds for the county’s new Unified Permit Center and the new Community Development and Infrastructure Department, both of which were created to streamline the county’s notoriously byzantine permitting process.
County Budget Manager Mark Pimentel says that the new system also allows for electronic storage of financial records, thus ending the decades-long practice of storing reams of printed material that in all likelihood will never be read.
“We’re reducing our environmental impact, which we’re really excited about, and we’re creating a dynamic tool that we hope can really go beyond the power users that have used the budget in the past and be able to make this community communication device.”
Supervisor Zach Friend said the system came in part from a study of similar systems in other counties.
“This is a really remarkable tool for the community to learn about the budget,” he said. “County budgets, government budgets, although always available to the community, always seem opaque to the community. And this really takes away that opaqueness and provides clarity and transparency and a way to drill down in a way that we’ve never been able to provide in this community before.”
View the website here.