San Diego County’s $7.36 billion budget for the next fiscal year includes hundreds of millions of dollars to address behavioral health, homelessness and environmental issues.
County supervisors on Tuesday, June 28, unanimously approved the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and it represents an increase of $200 million on a proposed budget released last month.
“Today we are approving a budget that I believe is the greatest investment in some of the most pressing needs in our region’s history,” said President Nathan Fletcher.
The budget increases spending by $126 million, or 1.5%, from the current year, and adds 1,000 new positions, county chief financial officer Ebony Shelton said. This is a reversal of the proposals in the draft budget, which would have reduced spending by 1.1% compared to last year.
“We have made the largest-ever investment in behavioral health services in our county’s history,” Fletcher said in a statement. “Unprecedented investments in programs to help homeless San Diegans. Significant funding to improve health care services and staffing in our county jails. Plus, we’re investing more to fight climate change, address stormwater issues, and plant more trees across the county; keeping our communities safe by funding public safety; protect neighborhoods from the dangers of forest fires; and build more affordable housing.
About half of Funding increase of $200 million between the draft budget and the final budget comes from a recently negotiated labor agreement with county workers, with an additional $97.6 million dedicated to that contract, Shelton said.
Other additions include an extra $29.8 million in additional funding that will cover capital projects at parks and recreation facilities including Lindo Lake in Lakeside, San Luis Rey River Park, and Mira Mesa Epicenter rehabilitation plans, a teen cafe and a cultural center. The budget also designates $8 million for upgrades to the Chula Vista Bayfront. And it’s adding $16 million for a two-engine firefighting helicopter, as well as $2.2 million to reduce wildfire risk through clearing brush and building firebreaks.
Public safety spending has increased by a quarter of a billion dollars over the current year budget in the final version, from approximately $2.25 billion in the current year to 2.5 billion dollars for the coming year. That increase includes $130 million in health care spending at county jails, which has come under scrutiny for high in-custody death rates in recent years.
Spending on health and social services decreased by approximately $27 million, due to the elimination of certain one-time pandemic funds. Despite the department’s overall cuts, the board has approved new investments in behavioral health care and other social services.
The new budget reflects the council’s ongoing efforts to reform mental health and addictions treatment, with an additional $71.8 million and 115 new positions for behavioral health programs that focus on prevention and treatment. maintenance rather than crisis care, supervisors said.
Instead of letting patients with mental illness or addiction walk in and out of emergency rooms, the council aims to “really put in place a broad system of care that recognizes the very real nature of mental health, which changes our approach addiction with a desire for people’s well-being and the opportunity to live fulfilled and stable lives,” Fletcher said.
The budget also adds funds to address homelessness and strengthen resources for children, families and seniors. That includes $11.9 million from one-time stimulus funds to develop affordable housing and $10 million to work with cities on new housing space, according to Fletcher’s office. The budget adds 100 new positions for child protective services, another 100 positions for Calfresh and Medi-Cal programs, and 60 new positions for home care services for the elderly and those who are blind or disabled.
The budget also slightly increases spending for the Land Use and Environment group, from about $615 million last year to $630 million. The spending plan adds about $60 million for environmental improvements, including $40 million for stormwater mitigation, $16.3 million for the multi-species conservation program, and $3.4 million for improve the Tijuana River Valley, which faces ongoing water quality issues from untreated sewage flows across the border. with Mexico.
“One of the things I’m most excited about in this budget, I especially want to recognize how sustainability, big and small, has been highlighted and elevated across all of our county operations,” said Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.
Supervisors said they are satisfied that the county’s spending plan will benefit city residents as well as those in unincorporated communities.
“It delivers to the county on every level,” supervisor Joel Anderson said. “Everyone is rising with this tide. And doing it in a financially sound way is truly remarkable.