VCTA: State of the County by Mike Powers CEO

By Sheryl Hamlin

Hosted by the Ventura County Taxpayers Association (VCTA), the 2019 State of the County (SOTC) delivered by CEO Mike Powers brought the largest audience yet: 280 attendees in an expanded banquet space at the Oxnard Marriot.

Mike Powers

 

Introductions

Ron Golden, VCTA Board Chair, introduced the meeting explaining the collaboration with Chambers of Commerce across the county. VCTA was founded in 1954, he said. The VCTA constituencies are not limited as he prepared the audience for a future announcement.

Cooperating groups represented: David Grau, President VCTA, Camarillo Chamber, Conejo Chamber, Oxnard Chamber, and Ventura Chamber.

Elected officials attending: Julia Brownley representative, Camarillo Council member, Water District representative, Port Hueneme (2 representatives), City of Ventura (2 representatives), Supervisors Long, Parks and Zaragosa, County Auditor, Sheriff’s office, Water District (2 board members), school districts and more.

Presentation by Southern California Edison

SCE, Director of Community Relations, Tanny Tumbling, spoke about the state legislation for Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) which created stability after the fire, promoted renewable (clean energy ) making it more affordable. Read about that legislation here.

She also announced a major solar/battery contract with Strata Solar Company for 195MW solar/batter plant in El Rio, contract, goal Dec 2020. Read about that award here. Although not mentioned at this event, it is noteworthy that there was a much smaller award for a plant in Santa Paula, which did not materialize.

CEO Powers

”Connecting our Region to Collectively Strengthen our Community” was the opening slide of CEO Powers presentation.

He said that the large turnout shows many people who care. He noted that it was especially significant to have representatives from both East and West County together.

Borderline Crisis and Simi Valley Fire

The Borderline Crisis and the Simi Valley Fire occurred on the same night with the same people responding to both crises. The Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) contributed $4 million for victims of the Borderline Recovery. Additionally the Borderline Memorial at Conejo Creek was approved.

Significant Fires

Woolsey fire. Fire Recovery: 1100 sheltered, VCCF contributed $3 million in donations, rebuilding 120 properties were cleared.

Thomas Fire. Ongoing for two years, 777 residences damaged. The county partnered with City of Ventura for this long term recovery

Budget

The county’s total budget of $2.31 billion, up 3.2% from last year, includes a General Fund at $437.3 million, up $19 million or 4.5% from the previous year.

The focus of expenditures is: safety, child welfare, mental health and homeless. Reserves increased to the highest level in history , up 13.1%. The county enjoys a AAA rating from Moody’s and S&P for long term credit. General Fund balances have been increasing .

Other noteworthy financial successes include 1230 improvements from the Lean Six Sigma program totaling $32 million savings. Pensions in the county system are 87.8% funded versus 70% in CalPERS due to the 15 year amortization versus 30 of CalPERS. 36% of employees are on PEPRA out of 2969 employees who participate in a 50/50 cost sharing.

CEO Powers reported the backfill of property taxes due to fire losses.

Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC)

With a $520 million budget VCMC produces an $8 million shortfall. VCMC goals including streamlined operations and reduced deficit are making favorable progress. Bill Folley, the new Healthcare Director, is an amazing resource with a backgroiund at Monterey, Cook County, Riverside and New York hospital systems. The county has seen a large increase in MediCAL usage. The plan to reopen Santa Paula hospital Obstetrics occured 8-1-2019 (today). Lowering receivables is another goal.

At VCMC minutes matter in saving lives, particularly with stroke technology. Offering unique Health Services, Ventura county has the largest Family Physician Residency in the State, 50th year, and the only pediatric oncology in the region. VCMC received an award for Trauma Services (3 members were in the audience from the Trauma service).

Digital Counties Survey

Ventura was chosen as the #2 county in the nation in its class size. Read the list of awardees here. . The list of on-line services is vast, including AI (Artificial Intelligence) for crime analysis, WAZA interface and Alexis

Public Safety

Safety is a major part of the county’s expenditures, including two “new“ Fire Hawks, now yellow and blue, with a capacity of 400-1000 gallons of water drop plus more capability to carry recuees. The jail expansion at Todd Road Jail in March 2019 is exclusively for mental health. The Fire Control Room is high tech and visual. The Sheriff too has the capability for night visualization cameras operated remotely.

General Plan 2040

New elements in the General Plan include: economic vitality, economic justice, complete streets and climate action.

Libraries are open when closed via mobile units. Libraries provide on-line GED and WIFI hot spots.

The county has implemented remote sensors to monitor the utilization of water and leaks. Infrastructure includes roads, bridges, new hotel Lobster Fry, airport hangars, bike lanes and the Rice Ave bridge.

Energy

Clean Power Alliance, EV Blueprinting, Green Business Network (master List of businesses) and ElectricDrive805 are some of the energy projects. The county will share a $48 million grant for a regional energy network, including the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura.

Data Driven County

In Ventura, people care about issues. All 600 managers must take leadership courses. He showed pie charts where the workforce ethnicity closely tracks the county and they are working on the management level. He provided a list of new employees, all of which are highly trained for technical positions.

Reflecting the nation, the county reports a 3.1% unemployment rate, although also with flat economic growth and slow wage growth. At $81,972, the median income is high and housing costs are averaging $2000 per month. Farmworker housing and ADU’s are a part of the overall housing strategy. Six strategies for growth include economic vitality and networking.

Broadband is going to be significant in the future noting TruPart and Harvest where the entire tract has been made broadband accessible.

New emphasis is on Food to fork, Clean energy, technology and Workforce Development. The Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) and Apprenticeship Consortium provide job matching in Oxnard and Simi via computer. Also Westminster Free University provides help and training.

Agriculture

Growth is up .002% (negligible) but in spite of fires, this was positive. A Farmworker Resource Program has been implemented. Invasive Species are a new threat. An Organic Waste Division is opening. The county will mitigate field fumigating risks.

U.S. Census 2020

There are 215,000 “hard to count” people in Ventura County. The Complete Count committee has 150+ ready to work. The Homeless count shows numbers up. The key gap is Premanent Supportive Housing. The county implemented a Homeless Management Information System. Year-round housing is needed for this population. Although, permanent Housing up since 2016. The county benefitted from $1.5 million in State HEAP funding. Oxnard is opening a 110 bed shelter partnering with the county. Other services include Whole Person Care. 1130 people, who overuse emergency services, receive case managers who work with them to use other medical sources rather than ER.

Public Health: First Comprehensive Health Needs Assessment

At 82 years, the life expectancy in Ventura County is 3.5 years greater than the US average. Cal Works participants are dropping, which is positive, and also positive is the reduction in foster home placement through family support services. Early childhood education is available through First 5 (13 locations) and Interface. Area Agency on Aging goal: keep people in homes “age in place”, fall prevention.

Crime

Juvenile Crime and Detention Census is down and response to opiod up, an all county trend. There is a shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds. The VC Sheriff has instigated a Homeless Intervention Program, Medical Health and Safety. Homeless Veterans are housed by Many Mansions at Ormond Beach. Ronald McDonald House at VCMC has already raised $750,000 of $1 million needed for the family stay center.

Powers reported $750,000 funding for gun violence restraining orders.

County Assets

CEO Powers emphasized the county’s assets which include weather, two universities, high quality of life and just the right size.

All Country Services

Click here to see the county services accessible on-line: Ventura.org/SOTC

The Human Side

A member of the county technology staff who was setting up the meeting informed me that working for the county is rewarding because employees know they contribute…CEO Powers fosters this environment he said. High Praise.

No Q&A

Tight on time, there was no question and answer session. Transportation is one area CEO Powers should cover at a subsequent meeting.

Previous SOTC Meetings

2018 Powers SOTC

2017 Powers SOTC

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com


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