This is a busy time of year at the County Government Center. Besides the routine issues, this is the time of year when the County presents the annual budget. The 2022-23 recommended budget was just released and represents a year of hard work on the part of the Administrative Office working with various departments to identify needs and priorities within the County. The annual budget book is a wonderful document that is like a slice of history. Glancing through the budget is a great way to become knowledgeable about San Luis Obispo County. For example, information found in the budget includes comparisons of past and present conditions.

Here are some interesting facts from the budget book. San Luis Obispo became a county in 1850 and was one of the original 27 counties in California. Today it is the 35th largest county out of the 58 counties in California. According to the California Department of Finance, as of January 2021, SLO County had 271,172 citizens, a 2% decrease in population. Of those 271,172 people, 115,506 live in the unincorporated areas of the County, while the other 155,666 people live in one of the seven incorporated cities within the County. The median age of a County citizen is 40 years, with 27% of the population over 60 years old, and 22% of the population under 20 years old. In the 3rd quarter of 2021, the median single-family home in the County cost $799,950, which was a 26% increase over 2020 prices.

The budget, of course, includes primarily financial information to summarize revenues and prioritize spending. The 748-page document is a presentation from the County’s Administrative Officer, as well as the 24 Department Heads that oversee County services. The 2022-23 recommended budget includes $781.4 million in spending, which is a $26.8 million dollar increase, or 3.6% increase over last year’s adopted budget. Part of the increase in revenue is due to the American Rescue Plan of 2021(ARPA), which brought $54.9 million dollars of money to the county to be spent over three years. This is one-time money designed to help with COVID recovery.

The Board of Supervisors will eventually pass the final budget based on established budget priorities. Presently, the County’s top priorities include paying state and federal mandates and covering debt service. Many programs and services are mandated by the state or federal governments, but only some come with funding. Short term priorities for the County include homeless services, water resiliency and infrastructure, economic development and affordable housing. Long term priorities include public safety (law enforcement and fire protection), and road maintenance.

The county has 2,901 full time employees providing a variety of services. Of the total $781.4 million dollars in revenue, the state and federal governments provide $341.8 million, or 44% of the total budget. This is the single largest source of revenue for the County, and the money goes to pay for the many health and human services programs, as well as mental health services and criminal justice programs. The second largest source of revenue is taxes, including property tax, sales tax, and transient occupancy tax (hotel tax). Many of the Chamber members contribute to this revenue source which totals $249 million, or 37% of the County’s total revenue. This figure represents a 7% increase over last year’s budget. The sum of the revenue provides many services to the citizens of the County, including Law enforcement, roads, parks, libraries, public healthcare, a jail, foster care program, elections, fire protection, animal services, and flood control.
One interesting bit of information to be found on page 54 of the budget document is a description of where your property tax payment goes. Most people don’t realize that when you write your check to pay your property taxes, only 23 cents of each dollar goes to the County, and 61 cents of each dollar goes to the schools. Another interesting fact is found on page 44. The document is a written description of the new Supervisor districts. If you have any questions or comments regarding the upcoming budget process, you are welcome to contact me at (805)781-4339. The final budget will be passed before the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2022.

It is an honor to represent you.

Debbie Arnold
5th District Supervisor


5th District Supervisor, Debbie Arnold

Debbie Arnold moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1973 to attend Cal Poly, she fell in love with both her husband, Steve, and the farming and ranching values that had been a part of the Arnold family way of life for more than 5 generations. While raising two children, she owned and operated a small business in Atascadero for more than 17 years. She then had the privilege of advocating for local families as a Legislative Aide at the County Supervisor’s office and as a San Luis Obispo District Representative for the State Senate. During these years, she worked with a broad range of community groups and interests, bringing people together to solve problems. Debbie Arnold now serves as the 5th District Supervisor for San Luis Obispo County.