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Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 3/7/2012
Budget Issue: Relocation of the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI)
Program: California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI)
Finding or Recommendation: Withhold action on Governor's January budget proposal to relocate CSTI and transfer some training responsibility to local authorities. Direct CalEMA to report at budget hearings on (1) a detailed implementation plan, (2) an estimate of the costs of relocating CSTI, and (3) all conditions local authorities would be required to meet in order to provide the training.
Further Detail

Background. The California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI), operated by the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA), provides specialized training to local authorities in the areas of hazardous materials response, emergency management, and criminal justice. About 30 percent of its training is provided by state instructors on-site at the CSTI training center in San Luis Obispo, often utilizing the center’s specialty facilities and equipment (including prop tanker railcars, big-rig trucks, a firing range, and a mock courtroom). Most of the courses (about 70 percent) are taught by instructors who travel to trainees’ local areas. According to the administration, funding for CSTI comes from a combination of federal grant funds ($2.1 million), reimbursements from local authorities ($3.8 million), and the state General Fund ($1 million) and supports 29 authorized positions. Local authorities are currently responsible for the costs associated with their employees traveling to the San Luis Obispo center to receive training, including overtime, subsistence, and backfilling necessary positions while trainees are away.

Governor’s Proposal. The administration’s 2012-13 budget proposal includes a plan to close the CSTI training center by January 1, 2013. Under the plan, CSTI would retain responsibility for curricular oversight, certifying locally run training programs, and providing some emergency management training on-location, but many responsibilities for training would shift to locally governed training centers operated by Joint Powers Authorities (JPA). The CSTI staff would be reduced by 20 positions over two years, and federal funds would be diverted to the JPAs. In total, the proposal would reduce the CalEMA budget by $2.0 million in 2012-13 and $4.2 million in 2013-14. Of these amounts, $187,000 in 2012-13 and $377,000 in 2013-14 are from the General Fund.

The administration argues that locally operated training centers would be more convenient to local governments and reduce the costs they incur to send their employees to San Luis Obispo for training, perhaps also resulting in more local governments taking advantage of the training.

LAO Concerns. This proposal merits consideration because of the potential benefits to local governments. However, we are concerned with the lack of sufficient detail provided with which to fully evaluate the fiscal and programmatic impacts of eliminating the CSTI training center.

  • No Implementation Plan. The CalEMA has not provided an implementation plan that identifies which regional authorities would be responsible for providing the specialized training currently offered at CSTI’s training center. Therefore, it is not clear whether local authorities have the expertise, equipment, or other necessary capacity to provide the same level of training as was provided by CSTI or how much time would be required to bring regional training centers online.
  • Limited Fiscal Detail. While the administration estimates an ongoing General Fund savings of $377,000, it does not account for the costs of dismantling the San Luis Obispo training center, transporting or disposing of its equipment, or relocating remaining staff. It is possible that these costs could exceed the estimated savings in the near-term. In addition, the administration’s proposal provides no detail on the degree to which local governments will be able to provide the same level of training as is currently provided at CSTI without state General Fund support, and instead relying on federal grant funds, reimbursements, and local resources. Local costs could be higher or lower than what it costs the state now, depending on factors such as the existing local training infrastructure and whether local governments would need to build new training facilities and purchase equipment.
  • Limited State Oversight. While CalEMA would retain responsibility for curricular oversight and administration of the federal grant funds, the state may lose some control over the consistency of the training provided, the extent to which course offerings are appropriately tailored to the needs of all counties, and whether the local authorities operating the facilities would be required to offer all of the training currently provided. As of yet, CalEMA has not provided details as to what, if any, requirements the regional training providers would have to meet to address these concerns.

LAO Recommendation. Given our policy and fiscal concerns with the administration’s proposal, we recommend the Legislature withhold action and direct CalEMA to report at budget hearings on (1) a detailed plan for implementing the shift of training responsibilities to local authorities, including identification of eligible local authorities and their capacities to provide this training, (2) an estimate of the full state cost of dismantling the CSTI training center, including the cost of relocating staff and transporting or disposing of equipment, and (3) all conditions that local authorities would be required to meet in order to provide the training.