Deliberations on the county's proposed $5.06 billion budget are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Formal public hearings on the budget came to a close on June 11, while change letter requests in writing were still accepted by the county clerk through June 18. The day set aside for general public testimony on any area of the budget was met with zero public speakers. The two days of hearings leading up to that, however, consisted of public presentations in favor of specific community enhancement programs.
Budget change request letters generated by the 10-day public comment period will emerge in the coming days. One anticipated request was brought up on the last day of formal hearings by Supervisor Dave Roberts, who said he will request that the amount allotted for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program be doubled. Such a move would return the program's budget to its pre-2011 level, which provided up to $2 million for each of the five supervisors to grant toward community nonprofit organizations.
Since the 2011 reduction, each supervisor has been able to grant a total up to $1 million per year. The program, even in its smaller scale, has been subject to criticism.
Before Roberts won his seat on the Board of Supervisors in 2012, his election opponent, Steve Danon, referred to the program as a "slush fund." Roberts ran in part on a desire to protect the program.
Nearly two years later, he still considers it an important tool for the community.
"Over the last two days, we've heard from many people that had community enhancement grant requests, and we had many more requests than we could fund," Roberts said as he proposed the increase.
All four of the supervisors present at the hearing voted in favor of having the increase request included in the change letter to Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer. Supervisor Greg Cox was out of town for a meeting of the California Coastal Commission, which he also sits on.
Robbins-Meyer's recommendation letter requesting approval of the budget stated that it "maintains the county’s commitment to long-term planning and fiscal stability."
The 2014-15 budget makes up half of her Recommended Operational Plan, which presented a proposed balanced budget of $5.06 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and an unofficial outline for spending in the following fiscal year, 2015-16. The $5.06 billion represents a 1.6 percent increase from the current fiscal year’s adopted budget of $4.98 billion. Staffing at the county level is recommended to increase from this year's approved 16,627 staff years, to 17,037 staff years.
About $1.9 billion is proposed in the budget for the health and human services group of programs, which comprise the largest share of proposed spending. The budget proposes nearly $1.63 billion goes toward public safety, $417.5 million to land use and environment spending, $383.6 million to finance and general government spending, $324 million for community services and $322.2 million for other finance. The smallest group is the capital improvements program, at $81.7 million.
The upcoming deliberations will begin Tuesday as part of the Board of Supervisors' regular meeting, with the budget talks scheduled for a 2 p.m. start in the Board's north Chamber, Room 310 at the County Administration Center.
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