Supervisor points to economic growth and cuts in government

  I am grateful for the honor and privilege of serving Kern County's Second District on the Board of Supervisors. Together, we have accomplished much, and this newsletter focuses on some of the highlights for Kern County and the Second District.

Kern County Budget Update

The Board of Supervisors passed the county's budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.   We are in year three of our four-year plan to eliminate the General Fund structural deficit, after several years of falling oil prices and rising employee benefit costs. All county departments, except for Kern County Fire, have endured cuts during our four-year plan, but the Board and I have asked your county government to maintain service levels despite these cuts. The efforts of every county department head and employee to find cost savings, and do more with less, has resulted in a reduction of the structural deficit from $44.5 million to $18.8 million this year. I am very proud of our county workforce.

Continuing the Board of Supervisors' commitment to prioritizing public safety, the Sheriff's Department and Fire Department will see NO cuts in this year's budget.

On a positive note, this year we anticipate higher property tax revenues due largely to the increased price of a barrel of oil. Overall, property tax revenues are expected to rise 3.5%, which equates to a $7 million increase to the General Fund. Even with this increase, we still need to remain vigilant with our budget reduction plan, as employee pension costs continue to increase dramatically. In fact, pension costs for the county have increased approximately 70% over the last 10 years.

 In addition, it is still very challenging to erase the deficit in the County Fire Fund. Once again, pension costs for the Fire Department are largely to blame for those challenges. Of the county's overall $18 million deficit, the Fire Fund accounts for $7.5 million of it. The Board is committed to providing support to the Fire Department to solve this problem, and ensure it is fiscally secure.

Advance Kern Recruitment Website

The anchors of Kern County's economy have been aerospace, agriculture, military installations, and oil for decades. The need to diversify Kern's economy is apparent every time there is a down turn in those industries. To that end, the County of Kern and the Kern County Economic Development Corporation have launched a new website called "Advance Kern" (http://www.advancekern.com) where prospective businesses wishing to build new sites or relocate to Kern County can go to view what economic and tax incentives are available. The website features a unique "calculator" tool that prospective businesses can use to enter in their desired footprint and the number of jobs they plan to create locally. This information is used to generate an estimated figure on the level of incentives the county is willing to negotiate. All incentives and proposals are subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors.

The opportunity this new Advance Kern website brings to us is exciting, and L'Oreal, USA, Inc. has used these tools, and will be locating within Kern County soon, bringing 155 new jobs.
Each new job created by a business that sets up shop in Kern County has a multiplier effects that ripples down throughout the rest of Kern's economy. All incentives given by the county to businesses are in the form of a tax rebate, but only after all property taxes are collected up front.
As an example of the multiplier effect 100 new jobs created brings to Kern, our economy can expect $7.4 million in residential real estate transactions, $1.4 million in auto purchases, nearly $1 million spent on recreation, entertainment, and restaurants, $825,000 in clothing/apparel, furniture, and appliance purchases, and $2.4 million spent on other business services.

This website is a way to start the conversation between our county economic development teams and businesses wishing to expand or relocate. We want to entice those businesses that will truly have a transforming impact on our local economy. I am very pleased with the results of this website already.

Kern County's Homeless Census

This past year the County has heard from citizens and homeless service organizations about the need for a plan from the County to address the issue of homelessness in our communities. In May, the County hired Jose Gonzalez as the Homeless Coordinator for the County, tasked with working with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative and other community organizations to draw up a plan to alleviate the homeless problem in Kern.

An essential part of tackling the homeless problem is to know how many of our fellow residents are afflicted with homelessness. Each yeah in January, the Kern County Homeless Collaborative conducts the Point-in-Time Homeless Count/Census, and they need help.

Kern County is proud to partner with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative and is calling on our local residents to participate in the 2019 Point-in-Time homeless Count that will take place on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count will assist the Kern County Homeless Collaborative to strategically analyze and address the housing and service needs of individuals and families who require assistance. The data gathered during the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count also helps identify local trends and other critical statistics among our homeless population.

The following eleven cities/unincorporated communities have been identified with the greatest need for homeless count volunteers: Arvin, Lamont, California City, Delano, Frazier Park, Lost Hills, McFarland, Mojave, Rosamond, Taft and Tehachapi.  I strongly encourage and support residents of these geographical areas to seize this opportunity to provide an invaluable service to our community and to offer your knowledge of the specific region to reach as many people in need as possible. Even if you don't reside in these areas, this is our collective opportunity to make a tangible impact on improving the lives of our most vulnerable population.    

All volunteers will be required to attend a two-hour training session, which will be offered in January, with specific training dates and locations to be announced in the immediate future. Varying time slots for each training session will be offered for your convenience. Volunteers will also be outfitted with the tools they need to conduct the count, including flashlights, the survey instrument, pens, clipboards and the care packages (small toiletries, light snacks, etc.), which are being assembled by the Kern County Homeless Collaborative.

Please visit https://endkernhomeless.org/volunteer_form to complete the short volunteer profile.  It is extremely important to select the city/location where you wish to volunteer. Also attached for your consideration is the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count Flier. You are encouraged to share this information with your friends, families, and civic groups and encourage them to sign up and participate in the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count as well. 
If you have any questions please contact Jose Luiz Gonzalez, Homeless Initiative Coordinator at (661) 868-3126 or via email at   gonzalezjl@kerncounty.com .