San Diego County recommended spending more than $7 billion in the coming fiscal year for county government operations, a 7.3% increase from this year.
The $7.03 budget proposal, presented by Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer Thursday, includes funding for a new agency to address homelessness, outreach to those who suffer from mental illness and continued COVID-19 relief.
The plan represents “a strong step in the right direction,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher.
“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,” Fletcher said.
He praised the fact that behavioral health has the largest allocation in the 2021-22 proposal, along with the addition of new positions for child welfare services and mental health and substance abuse care in jails.
The public can weigh in on the budget plan by:
- Watching presentations by several county departments to the Board of Supervisors on May 26-27.
- Viewing budget hearings at 9 a.m. June 14 and 5:30 p.m. June 16.
- Following board deliberations in advance of the scheduled adoption of the budget at 2 p.m. June 29.
Planned community investments include $279.6 million in capital projects, from a new Otay Mesa Fire Station, Casa De Oro Library and Julian Library community room to more than $70 million for new parks, trails and recreational areas.
Key components of the budget proposal include:
- Homelessness: Creation of a Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities to streamline operations 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.
- Justice system: Additional medical care and access to mental health services throughout the jail system with 141 new staff, and $10 million to expand the Mobile Crisis Response Team program, an alternative to dispatching law enforcement for individuals in crisis. Also, $75 million for phase two of the new Youth Transition Campus.
- Racial justice: Funding a plan to allow the community and employees to evaluate county operations through an equity and racial justice lens, while also using data analysis to help root out systemic racism. The plan also adds support for Office of Equity and Racial Justice projects, such as an initiative designed to advance the interests of boys and men of color.
- Behavioral health: Almost $813 million to redesign and enhance programs, including outreach for clients reluctant to engage in traditional settings, lowering staff-to-client ratios and 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, for programs such as 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 to 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.
- Housing accessibility and affordability: The federal allocation of $107 million for renters continues 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 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 supervisors meetings.
The county said that new investments will result in a net increase of 660 staff years, excluding workers from the Air Pollution Control District which became an independent agency on March 1.