Supervisors approve $5.78B spending plan for county

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a $5.78 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Saturday, including $25 million to help create affordable housing.

The spending plan is $94 million higher than what was originally proposed two months ago. The hike includes $40.1 million for road maintenance, a $28 million advance payment for future street improvements and $25 million to create an investment pool to ease the affordable housing crunch.

The increase means that spending will be more than $420 million above the current fiscal year.

County employment will remain stable at more than 17,400 positions, although there are planned increases and decreases in jobs in individual departments to align with workloads.

Public safety functions will receive $1.8 billion, a $72.8 million increase over the current year. Public safety makes up nearly one-third of the proposed spending plan and 43 percent of staffing.

The Health and Human Services Agency will get $1.9 billion, or an extra $44.8 million over the current year, mainly to spend on addressing homelessness and behavioral health, as well as child welfare and aging services. The HHSA accounts for just over one-third of the budget and 36 percent of county employment.

Spending on capital projects totals $154.1 million, with $49 million of that going to a sheriff’s technology center. Another $20 million will go toward renovations at juvenile justice facilities in Kearny Mesa, with $11 million earmarked for upgrades at the County Administration Center.

Capital spending in the county budget can vary widely from year to year, depending on the status of projects.

“This budget has been thoughtfully developed to address short-term and long-term obligations, and maximize the use of public dollars in a responsible manner for all residents,” said Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief administrative officer. “We balanced the needs of the people we service, the employees who serve them and the taxpayer who pay the bill.”

Advocates for a variety of causes are expected attend the hearing to call for even more spending, pointing at the county’s large budget reserve account.

Robbins-Meyer said their comments were “misleading and they paint an inaccurate picture of county finances.” The reserves are needed because of the county’s pension liability and looming capital project requirements, among other things, she said.

The county plans its budgets in two-year cycles. A $5.28 billion budget is projected for the 2018-19 fiscal year.