The Coast News Group
The county's overall budget constitutes an 11% increase — or $806.4 million — over last year's approved spending. Stock photo
The county's overall budget constitutes an 11% increase — or $806.4 million — over last year's approved spending. Stock photo

Supervisors pass $8.17 billion county budget

REGION  — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on June 27 unanimously approved an $8.17 billion county budget for the fiscal year 2023-24, following deliberations on more than $60 million in revisions added since May.

Board Chairwoman Nora Vargas said the budget “uplifts communities in an equitable manner,” with an emphasis on tackling the homeless and opioid crisis and supporting mental health programs for youth and senior citizens.

The revised budget adds $60.6 million, or an increase of 0.7%, to the May plan. The overall budget constitutes an 11% increase — or $806.4 million — over 2022’s approved budget.

The revised “Invested in Community” county budget includes another 50 staff positions, with the majority assigned to the county initiative of removing barriers to housing. The 0.2% increase brings the total of county employees to 20,387.25 staff years, an increase of 539.75 staff years from last year.

According to the proposal, the increase in both budget and staff will go toward supporting “new and expanded social service programs and increasing caseloads to assist vulnerable populations.” It also has investments in infrastructure, such as a new Public Health Lab and affordable housing projects, according to the county.

The revised plan also includes more funding to address the housing crisis, special election costs, an upgrade to the regional communication system, two mobile service center vehicles for the Probation Department, road safety improvements and more.

Some highlights of the county budget include:

  • $18.3 million for implementation of the CARE Act, a state program for people with serious behavioral health issues that may provide services, shelter and treatment through civil court proceedings;
  • $25 million increase for the Innovative Housing Trust Fund to help build affordable housing;
  • $2.7 million to restore land and improve water quality in the Tijuana River Valley;
  • $12.8 million for court programs to support those with mental health, substance use and other needs, such as collaborative courts, drug courts, mandatory supervision courts, reentry courts, veteran courts and behavioral health courts;
  • $141.1 million increase for safety net program benefit payments, higher wages for in-home supportive service caregivers, additional employment services and training for CalWORKS and CalFresh recipients and expanding Info Line 211 access;
  • $17 million to build a Jacumba fire station; and
  • $35.6 million to build a Santee animal shelter.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, outgoing chief administrative officer, stressed on June 27 that even with the year-over-year increase, “this budget is fiscally prudent.”

“I’m not jeopardizing the fiscal health of our county,” she said.

Robbins-Meyer thanked county department leaders, staff and supervisors for their work in crafting the budget during a challenging year.

“We are pushing up against our fiscal limits,” she said, referring to a possible future economic downturn.

She added that community partners must understand that the county may have to dampen its expectations during the next budget process.

Terra Lawson-Remer, board vice chair, said the new budget “represents a lot of incredibly urgent priorities.”

Supervisor Jim Desmond echoed Robbins-Meyer’s concerns about future economic challenges.

“We need to exercise caution,” he said, referring to the projected state budget deficit.

Whatever the challenges, Desmond said the county has increased its programs and services, properly funded law enforcement and its park system, and adopted fair contracts for employees.

Supervisor Joel Anderson thanked his colleagues, department leaders and employees “for putting our constituents first.”

“It wasn’t an easy process, but we all got there” said Anderson, who said the budget was a high note for Robbins-Meyer. Anderson added that he was “super-excited” to have a half-million dollars to fight opioid abuse in his district.

1 comment

Errr717 July 4, 2023 at 12:21 pm

I don’t see a line item for fixing the roads. Social programs seem to be the order of the day. How about highlighting programs that benefit all the residents.

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