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    Riverside County board OKs ‘structurally balanced’ 2024-25 budget

    By Joe Taglieri,

    2024-06-12
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=04nx0g_0tpIU4ik00

    The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively approved a $9.6 billion budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year that officials said is structurally balanced and aims to expand services for the county’s expanding population.

    The budget has reserves of nearly $700 million and designates more than $9.6 billion for essential services, an increase of 11% compared with last fiscal year’s $8.6 billion budget.

    “Our priority is to our residents and ensuring that everyone has access to the vital services that improve their quality of life,” Board Chair Chuck Washington said in a statement. “Continuing to address issues like affordable housing and homelessness head-on is critical, and in the same regard so is public safety. This recommended budget finds the necessary balance to maintain the County’s mission of ensuring that our residents’ safety, wellbeing and ability to thrive are possible.”

    County officials noted the third consecutive year that the General Fund discretionary budget is “structurally balanced.” The recommended budget also aims to preserve the General Fund reserves balance which has improved the county’s credit ratings and its overall fiscal health, officials said.

    “This year’s budget builds on our successes and confronts new challenges with the same commitment, persistence, and optimism that brought us this far,” County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen said in a statement. “This budget is much more than numbers on a page — it reflects our goals, and its impact within the community. We are expanding mental health services, hiring social workers to help our most vulnerable, committing funds toward affordable housing, allocating substantial resources to our public safety teams, and investing in infrastructure projects for water, sewer, and roads that will stimulate economic growth.”

    Ahead of the board’s 5-0 vote on Tuesday, the second day of budget hearings, Van Wagenen told supervisors, “We don’t want to dip into reserves to balance the budget We know pressures will continue, costs will continue to mount and revenues will continue to flatten.”

    Van Wagenen said the ’24-25 budget’s 11% raise in spending compared with ’23-24 was needed to meet obligations that include services for the public and payrolls for county employees. Department heads’ primary concern heading into the upcoming fiscal year will be the potential adversity locally as a result of the state’s estimated $68 billion budget deficit.

    “I’m worried about what’s coming,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “What’s coming is potentially harmful to local governments, with potential budget reductions and layoffs. … The state budget is tanking by billions and billions of dollars, and history shows that local governments usually follow a year or two later.”

    Van Wagenen agreed that “there could be downstream consequences” for the county.

    The board approved these specific allocations during the budget hearings this week:

    • Approximately $1 million to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, for wildfire prevention;
    • $7 million to continue the county’s investment in “integrated services delivery to begin to build a data information hub and provide additional staffing to support integration”;
    • $6.1 million to the Public Social Services Department for the youth center Harmony Haven;
    • $2 million to the Animal Services Department for full-time veterinarian teams at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus and a mobile clinic to provide low-cost spay and neuter surgeries;
    • $400,000 to Riverside University Health System for the Blue Zones initiative promoting “overall wellbeing and increased health outcomes in target areas of the county”;
    • $725,000 to the District Attorney’s Office to improve trial preparation and cold case operations;
    • $260,000 to the Auditor-Controller’s Office for additional internal auditing personnel; and
    • $170,000 to the Probation Department to fund a medical alert wrist band pilot program at Southwest Juvenile Hall

    The new budget also allocates $10 million for targeted investment in the county’s unincorporated areas, “which supports the expansion of services and infrastructure as needed within areas that are underserved and have greater needs,” according to a county statement.

    The budget — available online at rivco.org/budget-information — is set for final approval June 25.

    The next fiscal year starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2025.

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