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HANFORD — The Kings County Board of Supervisors is close to reviewing its proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which includes over $8 million more than the last fiscal year’s final budget and new jobs in the county.

As proposed, the county will add about 12 full-time equivalent positions to the current 1,547 county positions. Rebecca Campbell, assistant county administrative officer, said most of these positions come from the probation department as a result of a federal mandate on staffing ratios required to supervise juveniles.

The overall proposed budget is up $8 million and totals $332.6 million, while the proposed general fund budget is $231.2 million, around $3.7 million more than last year’s general fund budget.

The overall proposed budget includes public transportation, employee salaries and expenditures for things like capital projects, while the general fund does not.

Campbell said there are some uncertainties in the budget due to “looming issues” like health care, CalPERS increases, groundwater management and huge potential cost increases for in-home supportive services.

The proposed budget is not necessarily what will be adopted, Campbell said. When the budget review takes place during the week of Aug. 21, the board can make changes. She said she expects the final budget to be adopted on Sept. 19.

The county department with the largest proposed budget increase is public safety, one of the largest departments in the county that includes the sheriff's office, fire department, probation department and district attorney. 

The public safety department budget has a proposed increase of $2.75 million, bringing its total to about $90.2 million.

The fire department’s proposed budget is up approximately $900,000 due to the cost of staffing two of the four one-person fire stations. Campbell said two of the stations now have two people, something the county has wanted to do for years.

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The budget for roads totals $13.7 million this year, which is about $1.6 million more than last year. The increase does not yet factor in the state-enacted Senate Bill 1, which will start in October and will raise gas taxes in an effort to generate money to fix state roads.

The funds generated by the raised gas taxes, an amount the county does not have an exact estimate on yet, would be used by the county to fix potholes and other street issues.

Campbell said the county’s public works department is excited and is already developing a list of county roads that need repairing.

“This will make for better, safer roads in the county,” Campbell said.

Like most businesses, the county spends a good portion of money on salaries, but public assistance and public safety add to expenditures as well. The county gets most of its financing from state and federal resources, and property taxes.

“Property taxes are how we fund most of what we do,” Supervisor Craig Pedersen said, adding the economy had gotten better and home prices are up. According to the county assessment roll, the assessable value of property in Kings County has risen almost $400 million since last year.

Pedersen said he’s excited about the electric car maker, Faraday Future’s, recent announcement to locate in the former Pirelli tire plant in Hanford’s Industrial Park. He said he’s hopeful it will meet its goal of 1,300 employees by 2019, and said he sees the company as a significant factor in attracting businesses to Kings County in years to come.

The board will meet in chambers, located in the Kings County Government Center at 1400 W. Lacey Blvd., for the purpose of reviewing the proposed budget on Aug. 21 at 9 a.m. They will continue meeting every day until they are complete and have a final budget proposal.

Any member of the public can appear during the days the board meets to be heard on matters regarding any item in the recommended budget, or for the inclusion of additional items.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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