San Diego County Administration Building
The San Diego County Administration Building. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a new method to create more fairness in the fiscal year budget and help marginalized communities.

Supervisor Nora Vargas made the proposal, called the Budget Equity Assessment Tool, which will have four components: applying an equity lens for all departments, using specific data, stronger community engagement and ensuring accountability.

The board also directed Helen Robbins-Meyer, chief administrative officer, to incorporate the tool into the annual budget development process and amend it as needed.

“Placing equity at the forefront is to ensure that everyone will thrive,” said Vargas, who is also board vice chairwoman.

According to an official letter, recent efforts by the Board of Supervisors have established “a commitment to advance equity and work towards the elimination of the longstanding disparities that have impacted our communities and that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Understanding and determining how and where the county’s financial resources are spent, as well as the impact of our budgetary decisions, is key to this work,” the letter stated.

Vargas’ colleague, Terra Lawson-Remer, also praised the new policy.

“There’s nothing more important than integrating our values,” she added. “This will be really new and innovative, and will advance the values we all share.”

Andrew Strong, director of the county Office of Equity and Racial Justice, said each department will answer a questionnaire through the budgeting process. Strong said other considerations include how budget requests help the most impacted communities, responding to community feedback and meeting language and accessibility needs.

During public comment, one caller said Vargas’ proposal addresses communities largely ignored by past supervisorial boards.

In their first meeting of 2022, supervisors met via teleconference, as part of COVID-19 safety procedures.

City News Service contributed to this article.