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First District News
March COVID-19 Special Edition
Budget News: The 2021-22 County budget was approved by the Board of Supervisors and it was mostly good news for Riverside County. Despite our fears at the beginning of the COVID Crisis last year, revenues (taxes & fees) have been coming in very strong. Although government will NEVER have enough money to satisfy its thirst, your tax dollars were able to keep essential county services at respectable levels and even provide a boost to some. Here are some details from the $6.9 billion budget:
*Fire – The County’s longtime partner and contractor (CAL FIRE) was able to substantially reduce its statewide overhead charges to the County (& contract cities), saving millions of dollars. This money is largely being reinvested back into the department to purchase needed apparatus and equipment. Additionally, the Board was able to bump up funding to add additional staffing to help with overtime impacts and to fund three patrol rigs to help with surge capacity when multiple fires occur in our county.
*Deputies – The Sheriff’s Department will be bumping up its recruitment efforts for patrol deputies, local tax dollars will be funding $5.5 million in additional patrol positions for unincorporated communities.
*Animal Services – The Blythe Animal Shelter has been in financial trouble, and was recommended to be closed, but the Board approved one-time funding to keep it open while other options are evaluated, including a possible joint-use facility similar to the shelter operated in Wildomar for the benefit of the cities of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Wildomar and other cities who all work together through a Joint Powers Authority arrangement.
*Behavioral Health – Nearly every Sheriff station across the county had been previously approved for a Community Behavioral Assessment Team (CBAT) which works with local contract cities and unincorporated communities to provide behavioral health clinicians in the field with deputies to help respond to “behavioral health-related calls” (including drug-related issues). The only Sheriff station (at least in the western half of the county) that had NOT been included in the original CBAT staffing was the Lake Elsinore Station serving the Elsinore Valley, Wildomar, Canyon Lake, and the Temescal Valley. That void is now being fixed with this new budget!
*Coordination of Social Services – I cannot adequately describe the massive county operations and agencies (mostly funded by the State & Feds) that are in place for residents who seek government assistance from one or more programs (housing, health care, food programs, workforce training, counseling, etc.). A big challenge is coordinating all the various services for the benefit of the individual and the professionals providing those services, so that people get all the help they need. The Board just approved an initial investment ($3.5m) toward building an Integrated Service Delivery network that will improve cooperation between departments.
*Infrastructure – For those of you who reside in non-city communities, the Unincorporated Communities Infrastructure (UCI) fund was bumped up to $5m to help pave neighborhood dirt roads, build sidewalks, flood control projects, etc.
The above is just a very small snapshot of budget issues. You can read the whole “recommended budget” (a few changes were made by the BOS before approval), along with important context about the process here: https://rivco.org/about-county/budget-and-financial-information. If you have a specific budget question, please drop us an email.
Help Wanted – Our office has several volunteer vacancies to fill. One is to serve on the County Fair Board to help coordinate the annual County Fair in Indio. We have alternate positions open for our Lakeland Village and Woodcrest Municipal Advisory Councils, the Children & Families Advisory Committee has an opening, and we need a resident who lives within three miles of the El Sobrante Landfill to serve on the Commission that oversees that contract. For more information, see the information below.
Lighten-Up – This is likely going to be long hot summer with huge strains on our statewide electrical grid. I’ve been chewed out for suggesting this before, but I strongly encourage fellow residents to always be prepared (disaster kits) and to have a portable generator (and long extensions cords) on hand to run your refrigerator and maybe some fans should we get hit with rolling brown-outs. Being better prepared is never a bad idea.
If you have any suggestions or concerns about county services, please feel free to email me or my staff.