Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

County budget builds on commitments across key areas

Gig Conaughton

County of San Diego Communications Office

The County of San Diego released a $7.15 billion recommended budget May 5 that builds on its commitments to address mental health, homelessness, equity, racial justice and climate change. It would add significant investments and just over 1,000 staff across priority areas. The budget also maintains essential public safety, land use, health and social services.

The total recommended budget is 1.1% smaller than the budget the County Board of Supervisors approved last year, mainly because many one-time costs for COVID-19 response are no longer needed.

The County Board of Supervisors must approve a new budget by June 30 and county leaders are urging the public to take part in the approval process. The board will get an overview of the budget during presentations by county departments at public meetings May 19 and 20.

The public can comment in person or by phone at two budget hearings in June: a daytime hearing June 13, and an evening session June 16. People can also comment online through e-comment until budget hearings close, https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/bos/ecomment.html. See more information on how to comment at Board of Supervisors meetings, https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/bos/comment-at-board-meetings.html

In addition, the public can attend virtual community budget meetings for each Board of Supervisors district:

• May 23: District 3

• May 31: District 4

• June 2: District 1

• June 6: District 5 – Fallbrook area

• June 8: District 2

The recommended budget makes investments in these key areas:

Mental health and substance use support

The new budget recommends adding $71.8 million and 115 new positions to help continue County efforts to transform its behavioral health system, from one of crisis response to prevention, continuous care and everyday health care to keep people connected and healthy.

The budget will continue to improve services to help people with mental health challenges and substance use disorders, focusing on those who have historically suffered silently, including people experiencing homelessness and youth.

Funds will support Mobile Crisis Response Teams, made up of mental health experts rather than law enforcement, to respond to someone in crisis.

The budget also includes a wide variety of resources to match the right type of care with the person in need – things such as recuperative care, school-based services, services for foster youth, people in long-term care services and the LGBTQ community.

Homelessness and housing

Mental health and substance use support are combined with investments in innovative housing solutions to make significant progress in ending homelessness.

Increased investments in the new recommended budget include $11.9 million from one-time stimulus funds to develop affordable housing to reduce homelessness.

Another $10 million increase would be spent to help people experiencing homelessness region wide by working with cities to buy shelters and places for people to stay. One recent partnership with the Lucky Duck Foundation and the City of San Diego will result in a 150-bed emergency shelter opening this summer.

Additional efforts to create more affordable housing for residents include $3 million to waive permit fees to encourage building accessory dwelling units. Another $810,000 will create an inclusionary zoning ordinance, which will require new development to include housing that people at or below median income levels can afford.

Justice reform

The county's justice system continues to move toward prevention, rehabilitation and training to help people avoid justice involvement and successfully come back to our communities following time in custody. This includes the Alternatives to Incarceration initiative. The initiative supports alternatives to jail and provides services and care, including mental health and sobering services, for people who don't pose a public safety threat.

More than $130 million is invested in health care services in the County's jails to help offenders.

Roughly $6.2 million will be spent on a Youth Development Academy to help young people who have committed serious offenses by giving them more intensive, longer-term behavioral health, rehabilitative and skill-building services to help them come back to our communities.

County Probation will use $1 million toward de-escalation training for their staff, supporting the young people they supervise.

The Juvenile Diversion Initiative and Transitional Age Youth Diversion program in the District Attorney's office will be bolstered with $2.4 million, to give juveniles the opportunity to accept services and counseling instead of prosecution.

The Public Defender's Office will add $21.8 million and 90 staff to defend clients, represent immigrants and the indigent in our neighborhoods, and improve transitions back into communities.

The District Attorney will use $3.5 million and add 18 positions to expand services to victims of crime, including the South Bay Center for Community Resiliency and Trauma Recovery, and a resentencing program.

Equity and access

The new budget also continues efforts to weave equity into all County programs and services.

The County Office of Equity and Racial Justice has implemented its new Budget Equity Assessment Tool that helps County departments prioritize services and allocations with equity in mind. The tool uses a series of questions to better understand how allocations affect historically marginalized vulnerable communities, those who are low-income or those who have historically and currently suffer from inequality.

The tool also incorporates community engagement, an important cornerstone of the County's operations that will be expanded in this budget to provide opportunities for all community members to play meaningful roles in discussions and decision-making.

Increased translation and interpretation services will provide greater access to services and information.

A new Office of Sustainability and Environmental Justice will be funded with $3.5 million and work to make sure all communities have the same protection from health hazards.

And the San Diego County Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement will serve as the central location for education and resources for employers and their workers; it will undertake research and data analysis regarding worker issues and pursue enforcement measures to protect workers.

Sustainability and fighting climate change

Climate change is already affecting San Diego County communities and the County is working hard to address the issue through reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing sustainability.

More than $25 million will be invested to cut greenhouse gas emissions in our unincorporated communities, including $1 million to support electric vehicle charging stations.

Nearly $60 million will be spent on other environmental improvements, including $40 million to address stormwater issues, $16.3 million on the Multiple Species Conservation Program and $3.4 million to improve the Tijuana River Valley.

Green building and solar energy will be promoted by waiving an estimated $2.1 million in permit fees. More than 3,500 trees intended to trap more than 178,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year will be planted around the county.

Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced – while equitable access to health care is boosted – by allocating $2 million to buy two additional Live Well on Wheels vehicles and a new mobile public health lab that can bring services to residents rather than requiring them to travel individually to health offices.

Supporting families

This budget also includes additional funding and positions to focus on the day-to-day needs of residents at home and at work, especially the most vulnerable.

In-Home Supportive Services for older adults and people who are blind or disabled will be boosted by 60 positions. Another 100 new positions will bolster essential services including CalFresh and Medi-Cal, to help people get the food and health care they need. Child Welfare Services will also add 100 new positions to increase emergency response support, and quality placement for children in care, to strengthen prevention services and continue improving connecting families to community-based services.

More than $30 million received through the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will continue to support the Board of Supervisors' framework for using the funds, including mental health services for young people and support for renters and nutrition programs.

The County's new Office of Economic Development & Government Affairs will foster inclusive economic growth, provide opportunities in arts and culture, and administer grant programs that focus on nonprofits and community-based organizations.

And the County's new Office of Evaluation, Performance and Analytics will use data and analytics to better inform decisions that impact our communities and improve service delivery.

Enhancing communities and keeping them safe

The budget also invests in safety and quality of life.

This includes $2.9 million for land for a future public safety facility located at Interstate 15 and State Route 76, and $250,000 to start plans and design for a new Jacumba fire station.

In addition, the San Diego County Fire Protection District is adding $2.2 million to protect communities and reduce community wildfire risk in unincorporated areas through roadside vegetation management and creating fire breaks.

Public Health Services will add 71 new positions to continue to strengthen its overall ability to protect our residents' health.

The budget would spend $550,000 for new and expanded county parks, including Calavo, Star Ranch, Lindo Lake, Park Circle and the Waterfront Park. And a Food Access Initiative to help create community gardens will be funded with $1 million.

Get involved in the budget process

To find out more about the recommended budget and upcoming meetings and hearings, visit budget.sandiegocounty.gov. You can also visit the Clerk of the Board's website, https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/cob.html, or call 619-531-5434 to get details about hearings and request translation services.

 

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