A large portion of the county’s budget covers programs or services required by state and federal law. The Board of Supervisors has little discretion or control over these costs and/or level of services.
In addition to mandates, federal or state courts may issue an order or ruling which requires the county to finance a particular program or service. The service then becomes a mandate for county funding.
Appropriations Limit (Gann Limit)
In 1979 the voters of California approved Proposition 4, which established appropriation limits. This initiative, now article XIIIB of the State Constitution, limits annual authority to spend “proceeds of taxes” by the state, counties, cities, public schools, and special districts. The appropriation limit is adjusted annually for changes in inflation and population. The voters may approve an override to increase the appropriation limit for up to four years.
Proposition 13 of 1978 and Proposition 62 of 1984 limit the ability of local government (including counties) to raise taxes without a vote of the people. Proposition 13 requires two-thirds approval by the voters to raise special taxes, and Proposition 62 requires a majority vote to raise general taxes. Proposition 13 affirmed the state’s authority to redistribute taxes collected among local entities. Starting in fiscal year 1992-93 the state shifted $2.5 billion of revenue from counties and other local governments to offset the states reduction of financial assistance to public schools. The County of Sonoma’s transfer is approximately $73 million annually.
In 1993, the voters approved continuation of a state wide one-half cent sales tax and dedicated the revenue to public safety purposes. This partially mitigated the effects of the loss of the state transfer of property tax revenue from local governments to balance the State budget. However, Prop 172 revenues are not available to fund services other than public safety.
Salaries and Benefits
Characteristic of any service provider, labor costs account for a large portion of operating costs. The county serves over 493,470 residents, and staff costs for services account for more than 55 percent of the budget. Changes in benefit costs and the collective bargaining process largely determine level of salary and benefit appropriations. Twelve separate unions and employee organizations represent Sonoma County employees.