Bakersfield

Kern County approves preliminary budget that sees pandemic-related hits

The Kern County Board of Supervisors approved a preliminary budget on Tuesday that has taken a hit due to the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic.

The preliminary budget sits at $3 billion, larger than last year’s $2.9 billion budget, but the general fund – the county’s main operating fund – will decrease by nearly $30 million to $809.6 million in the proposed budget. 

The increase in the total budget comes from $114 million in federal funds through the CARES Act. 

The county’s firefighters arguably saw the biggest hit – having their overtime reduced to plug a $9 million structural deficit within the Fire Fund.

The pared-back overtime scheme brings Kern County firefighters within the minimum requirements of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, meaning they would only receive overtime pay if firefighters worked beyond 40 hours within a workweek.

For most departments that receive a contribution from the general fund, the budget proposes a 7.5% cut to account for the anticipated revenue losses caused by the pandemic. 

However, some departments are looking at a larger budget cut, namely the Library system. 

The budget proposes a nearly $1.5 million decrease to the Kern County Library System, which represents a 22% decrease from the year before. 

Those cuts will translate to which libraries will physically reopen, since they closed on March 17. Out of the 24 branches in the county, only eight would be able to physically reopen under the budget. 

The District Attorney’s Office would see 22 vacant deputy district attorney positions unfilled. The office submitted a supplemental budget request totaling $2.5 million to fill those positions, but that request will be evaluated when the new fiscal year starts. 

Not all departments would see their funding decreased, however. 

The sheriff’s office would remain relatively unchanged as it would not receive any reductions in the general fund. Also, the proposed budget would fully fund another Sheriff’s Training Academy to put more deputies out in the community. 

Public budget discussions are scheduled for Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, and the county will adopt the final budget during budget hearings that are scheduled to begin on Aug. 25. 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.