With three whole days set aside for final budget hearings, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors gave their final approval on the nearly $7 BILLION dollar budget for Sac County FY 2021/22 in just one day.
How did it go so smoothly? Because there were NO bold moves. Not much was done differently from previous budgets. Not much was augmented. And Law Enforcement was definitely not defunded. *SIGH*
All of the supervisors seemed reluctant to deviate from the status quo, especially given that they are expecting the next $150 milli installment of American Rescue Plan Act funds within the next 6-9 months. Just about every supervisor used the words “cautiously optimistic” and “nimble” when referring to how they plan to prioritize spending of ARPA funds.
The Chief Financial Officer for Sac County, Amanda Thomas (who was only appointed this past April), presented the FY 2021/22 revised recommended budget. She began with reporting that sales tax revenue from online retailers (think Amazon) will be going to the jurisdictions where the sales occur. She expects to have a better sense of the amount and the sustainability of this funding at the mid-year budget hearings (it could be some significant coin!).
Thomas moved on to present the recommended budget, which contained changes to the preliminary budget that the Supes approved in June based on new information received, accounting for $400 million in appropriations.
This $400 million increase includes $15 million for a new property tax system, $5 million total for Mather Community Campus (a 12-month employment and rehabilitative transitional housing program), $7 million total for “Homeless Encampment Initiatives,” and $1.8 million for 15 more 911 Dispatchers (despite the county’s upcoming Wellness Call Center and Crisis Response program implementation that will handle mental health crisis calls, which is supposed to decrease the amount of 911 calls the Sheriff has publicly said he does not want to respond to).
Next up was Emily Halcon, who was appointed in July as the County’s Director of Homeless Initiatives. She presented her department’s request to add five additional navigators (aka outreach workers) to specifically focus on engaging the unhoused individuals residing along the American River Parkway. There is currently only one navigator assigned to the Parkway, and Halcon’s thinking is that five additional navigators will be able to cover more geography.
But yo, like one of the public commenters said: if there’s nowhere to navigate folks to, then navigators are useless..
The topic of Homeless Response got the Supes trying to design programs from the dais, including Supervisor Nottoli asking about adding a Community Prosecutor operating through the District Attorney’s office to “prosecute violations that are occurring against our natural resources” (aka criminalizing folks residing in encampments along the Parkway). Supervisor Serna felt like adding five more navigators was “too much of a baby step” and advocated for doubling the number of FTE navigators for a total of $500,000 and to add another half milli for debris removal in and around encampments. Supervisor Kennedy spoke up about homelessness being a humanitarian crisis, that he thinks “people would realize if it didn’t come with the debris.” Supervisor Desmond focused on the potential hazardousness of encampments and wanted to make sure people knew that he feels a responsibility to make sure that laws get enforced
What Got Funded:
• A $5 million contingency fund for Afghan refugee services
• Funding to support Regional Parks Department dedicated American River Parkway Fire Prevention Program, including additional ranger support personnel, vehicles and equipment
• Doubling the number of housing navigators dedicated to service solely in and along the American River Parkway
• Funding for more American River Parkway maintenance personnel plus vehicles and equipment
• Funding to support PBIDs
• Appropriations for local environmental educational programming: $75,000 for 3 nonprofits (Effie Yeaw, Soil Born Farms, and Sacramento Splash)
Nottoli asking the important questions like (I’m paraphrasing here): “We paid Deloitte $600,000 for a community survey and that’s what we got?,” “Why are we banking so much money in reserves when we have so much in deferred maintenance and human services that need attention now?”, and “What other budgets are there in the County like the Inmate Welfare Fund through the Sheriff’s department that don’t show up in our budget here?” In true Don Nottoli style, although he was asking good questions to lay up a dope play, he failed to execute the shots by shifting gears instead of driving the lane by making bigger issues out of the ridiculous answers he received from county staff.
Serna focused on “protecting” the American River Parkway - aka the continued harassment and criminalization of the 800+ unhoused individuals living in the Parkway - by advocating for more Park Rangers to terrorize unhoused individuals by destroying their shelters & taking away their belongings, advocating for more Navigators to navigate unhoused folks to the permanent affordable housing and supportive services that do not exist, pushing for the addition of a Community Prosecutor , and increased funding for debris removal (aka unhoused individuals’ survival items).
Kennedy focused on making sure folks know that he knows that “(the County has) an obligation and it is our role to actually provide those services and we intend to do so” but failed to prioritize funding in the budget for said services. He also let it be known that he reached out to the Office of the Inspector General to check out the legitness of the Sheriff using funds from the Inmate Welfare Fund, who looked into it and said there’s nothing illegal going on. He then reached out to the County’s legislative delegation “to encourage them to take up the cause, and there is a bill working its way through the State legislature to tighten that particular program up.”
Desmond focused on making sure folks know that he feels a responsibility to have law enforcement enforce the law along the Parkway. He also went in hard for the County Property and Business Improvement Districts (PBIDs) and the condition of the roads in his district. Don’t know what a PBID is? See SJPC’s August write-up on them here: https://www.socialjusticesac.org/post/what-hiding-under-you-friendly-neighborhood-pbid
Frost focused on making sure the residents of Rancho Murieta are even more privileged and protected in the case of a fire by having a clear evacuation route in addition to landscaping services for “fuel reduction.”
Remember last year when the Supes - well, all but Frosty Sue - voted to approve the resolution that declared racism a public health crisis? A whopping $200,000 (eye roll) was allocated to develop a plan for addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion. $200,000, when $1milli was prioritized for debris removal along the American River Parkways...Seems like Sac County could benefit from hella more than this tiny drop in the bucket toward advancing racial equity and justice…
Lastly, NO money was divested from the Sheriff. Instead, they got an extra $25 milli! And they didn’t even have to show up to present and account for their performance.
The Sheriff’s department made an unexpected cameo when Sac County Probation Chief Marlon Yarber was summoned before the Board by County Executive for Social Services Bruce Wagstaff, to answer the questions asked by Supervisor Nottoli (inspired by written correspondence and live comment from the public) from the hallway regarding AB 109 realignment funds. Again, good questions were asked - ridiculous answers were given - and then the topic was shifted.
Public Comment MVP: One of our comrades not only made a compelling case for why it makes no sense to continue funneling funds to law enforcement through the probation department, this comrade also called out Supervisor Frost for associating with members of the Proud Boys and attending anti-vaccine rallies.
The Sheriff has consistently received over 35% of General Fund dollars, and in fact receives so much money that it reports an average of $4 million in unspent dollars per year. $16 milli had already been approved for the Sheriff back in June, and now they got another $8 milli for salaries and benefits for sheriffs and correctional officers who perpetuate a culture of abuse, violence, and neglect that has put the county jails under federal oversight.
In July, it came out that the Sheriff spent more than $15 million dollars on employee salaries from the inmate welfare fund -- money that is supposed to be used to support the people being incarcerated!
Community demands to reinvest those Sheriff dollars into community care services, housing, and COVID emergency response continued to be ignored by the Supes. Instead, Supes pinky-promised to use the next installment of ARPA funds for those much needed community services.
Remember when we were talking about a budget for the Alternatives to 911 for Mental Health & Quality of Life Crisis Response Program back in February and Supervisor Kennedy said:
"I don't see how we can do a program where there isn't some money coming out of the sheriff's budget. How much? I don't know. I'm not going to speculate but the reality is, that is a considerable chunk of our general fund...To say that we're just going to keep that as a sacred cow? There are no sacred cows. We have to look at all alternatives."
Looks like the Sheriff’s budget remains the sacred cow…