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Last Updated: 2/27/2015
Budget Issue: Drought response activities
Program: Governor's Office of Emergency Services
Finding or Recommendation: Withhold recommendation on the proposed $4.4 million for 2015-16 until the May Revision when more complete information on water conditions and additional current-year expenditure data will be available.
Further Detail


The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) is responsible for assuring the state’s readiness to respond to and recover from natural and man-made emergencies. During an emergency, the office (1) functions as the Governor’s immediate staff to coordinate the state’s response under the Emergency Services Act and the California Disaster Assistance Act and (2) provides assistance to local jurisdictions whose resources and services are overextended. The OES also coordinates federal assistance for natural disaster grants.

In response to an extended drought in California that began in 2011, the Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency in January 2014. At the time, OES activated the State Operations Center and regional operations centers to monitor the drought, coordinate a state-level response to the drought, and provide technical assistance to local government agencies. For example, in communities affected severely by the drought, OES helped coordinate the provision of emergency water supplies for drinking and sanitation.

Many of the positions at OES are supported by federal funds. However, according to OES, since the drought has not been declared an emergency by the federal government, the state cannot use federal funds to support drought-related activities. Accordingly, OES staff must be supported by state funds when engaging in drought-related activities. In response to this, the Legislature provided OES with $1.8 million in 2013-14 and $4.4 million in 2014-15 from the General Fund on a one-time basis for these activities.

Governor’s Proposal

The Governor’s budget proposes $4.4 million from the General Fund on a one-time basis in 2015-16 to allow OES to continue to provide communities with technical guidance and disaster recovery assistance related to the drought. As has been the case in the current year, existing staff will be redirected from other duties on a rotating basis to perform drought-related activities.

LAO Findings

Funding Required Will Depend on Future Hydrologic Conditions. As we discussed in our recent report, The 2015-16 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection, the level of funding needed to respond to the drought will depend on future hydrologic conditions. Water conditions for 2015 are currently unknown since the state typically receives nearly all of its precipitation between December and April each year. Thus, the level of resources required by OES is uncertain at this time. While OES may still have some work to do to help communities recover even if hydrological conditions improve, the amount of workload necessary will likely be clearer by the May Revision when more information on water conditions will be available.

Current-Year Funding May Not Be Fully Needed. During the first half of 2014-15, OES spent an average of $225,000 each month on drought-related activities. If this average spending rate continued for the remainder of the current year, OES would not fully utilize the $4.4 million that was provided in the 2014-15 budget for such activities. While it is possible for OES to spend at a higher rate this spring on drought-related activities, monthly expenditures would have to more than double (and substantially exceed any month for which we have expenditure data) in order for all of the funding to used. Thus, it is likely that all of the funding in the current year may not be fully needed.

LAO Recommendation

In view of the above, we withhold recommendation on the proposed $4.4 million for 2015-16 until the May Revision when more complete information on water conditions and more months of 2014-15 expenditure data will be available. This additional information will allow the Legislature to have a better idea of what drought response needs and costs might be going forward and whether the amount of funding proposed for OES is appropriate.