SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County's Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer recommended spending $7.03 billion in fiscal year 2021-22 for the running of the county government Thursday, a 7.3% increase from this year.
The recommended budget represents a net increase of 660 additional staff years, excluding staff from the Air Pollution Control District which became an independent agency on March 1.
"I have fought since 2019 for our budgets to reflect the needs of our community and year-after-year we have successfully increased funding and services to ensure our residents, especially our most vulnerable, are being taken care of better than the year prior," said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher.
"The draft budget appears to continue that trend in some areas: Behavioral health has the largest funding allocation, more new positions for child welfare services, 141 positions for clinicians to provide mental health and substance abuse care in jails and $75 million for phase two of the new Youth Transition Campus," he said. "This is a strong step in the right direction, but there is more work to do between now and when the budget is adopted on June 29."
Key investments in both funding and staff are intended to make an impact in:
-- Justice System Reform: Medical care and access to mental health services will be expanded throughout the jail system with 141 additional staff, and $10 million will expand the Mobile Crisis Response Team program used as an alternative to dispatching law enforcement for individuals in crisis. Additionally, $75 million for phase two of the new Youth Transition Campus to it move away from a traditional correctional, punitive model.
-- Racial Justice: Community voices and employees will look at county operations through an equity and racial justice lens for disparities. Their feedback and the enhanced use of data analysis is intended to help root out systemic racism. The new budget will also support new projects from the Office of Equity and Racial Justice such as the initiative designed to Uplift Boys and Men of Color.
-- Behavioral Health: Almost $813 million for increases to redesign and enhance programs and services, including outreach for clients reluctant to engage in traditional settings, lowering staff-to-client ratios, enhancing crisis stabilization services. The budget also funds $3.2 million for 23 nurses supporting the San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital.
-- Health Equity: $226.9 million toward continued response to COVID-19 and outreach for hard-hit neighborhoods, continued testing, treatment and tracing efforts, and meals to at-risk seniors. The budget includes 166 additional positions, including with the CalFresh and Medi-Cal programs, extra staffing for Adult Protective Services, In-Home Supportive Services and Child Welfare Services.
-- Economic Opportunity: $650 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding will provide senior and youth services, small business stimulus funds, permit fee waivers for the events industry, expanded broadband access, infrastructure, child care subsidies, food assistance and mental health services.
-- Homelessness: Creation of a Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities to streamline operations that are spread across several county agencies. The budget also includes 19 new positions and a $2.5 million increase for Community Care Coordination programs to support veterans, youth and high-need individuals with housing and other assistance.
-- Housing Accessibility and Affordability: The federal allocation of $107 million will continue offering rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The budget also includes increased funding for the CalWORKs Housing Support program to help families in need find and retain permanent housing and $2.7 million to encourage development of Accessory Dwelling Units.
-- Environmental Protection: $104.5 million for environmental protection and includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, planting trees, acquiring at least 500 acres of land for open space, protecting water quality and agriculture, and diverting waste from landfills.
-- Government Transparency: Resources to support a new subcommittee to enhance accessibility and open government within county operations, including engaging the public in the county budget and Board of Supervisors meetings.
-- Community Investments: $279.6 million in capital projects to improve communities throughout the region, including a new Otay Mesa Fire Station, new Casa De Oro Library and Julian Library Community Room, and more than $70 million for new parks, trails and recreational areas to enjoy the outdoors and preserve open space.
The public can watch budget presentations by several county departments to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 27.
Budget hearings will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 14. An evening hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16.
Following the close of budget hearings, the Board will deliberate and is scheduled to adopt the budget at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29.