Supervisors hear from public during budget hearing

SAN DIEGO -- County residents asked the Board of Supervisors to consider money for an immigrant services office, a permanent migrant shelter and more affordable housing options Thursday evening during a budget hearing.

During the nearly four-hour hearing, more than 100 speakers also urged supervisors to focus on better public transportation, child care, homeless services and mental health treatment.

The board is seeking public input before passing a $6.2 billion budget on June 25. The proposed budget includes $2 billion for public safety, $2.3 billion for health and human services, $1.3 billion for finance and general government and $651 million for land use and environment.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob thanked people for their input, but said "we have to be mindful that we must continue to be fiscally responsible."

Jacob added that some suggestions made Thursday night will require ongoing revenue.

"I hate to tell everybody, but we can't do and be all things to all people," Jacob said.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, county chief administration officer, said the county is confidently able to make increases without jeopardizing its fiscal health but that may change next year if there's an economic downturn.

"We are committed to our mission of a county that is healthy, safe and thriving," she said.

Many who made budget requests wore stickers that read, "Invest in San Diego Families" as part of a coalition effort. Some people shared personal experiences with economic struggle, their own health or homelessness. Others praised the county for a more progressive and inclusive budget, but said more still needs to be done.

Barbara Pinto, a retired San Diego teacher, asked supervisors to consider money for rental assistance, especially for senior citizens and working families.

Pinto said she is struggling to keep a roof over her head, because of rent increases.

"If my rent goes up again, I'll be out on the streets," she said. "Everything's going up but our checks."

Laura Morris, protective service supervisor with the county, said more staffing is needed to meet child welfare needs.

Morris said demands on her profession have increased significantly.

"Bad things happen to children when our system is under-staffed and overworked," she said.

Rev. Kathleen Owens of First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, said more spending is needed for affordable housing, immigrant services and public defenders.

"We are inviting you to side with love and let our values of care and compassion shine thorough in this budget," she told the board.

Several people urged the board to include a youth participatory budget.

Towards the meeting's end, Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher proposed adding 60 more social worker positions to the budget.

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