Orange County OKs $8.8 Billion Budget

Orange County OKs $8.8 Billion Budget
The Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting hall in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 25, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jill McLaughlin
SANTA ANA, Calif.—Orange County supervisors approved an $8.8 billion budget June 28, adding 178 new positions, and increases in homeless and mental health services, among other programs.

The new fiscal year budget will begin in July and represent an almost 7 percent—or $1 billion—increase in spending.

County Supervisor Don Wagner, vice board chair, thanked staff for putting the budget together.

“Thank you to the budget team that has worked so very hard,” Wagner said. “We have heard lots of input. They’ve heard lots of input. And, I find it a testimony for staff that when we come here for the final approval, all of the folks that have been out there looking at our budget and all of the questions we’ve asked internally of our staff have been answered.”

The biggest spending areas for the next fiscal year are community services, at $3.37 billion, or 38 percent, and public protection, at $1.8 billion, or 20 percent.

As part of the public protection budget, the sheriff’s department was funded at $955 million for the next fiscal year, with an additional $2.6 million for supplemental services.

The sheriff’s department plans to restore 130 positions that were removed during the pandemic and add 34 new positions.

The department plans to expand its behavioral health bureau, coroner division, concealed carry weapons unit, records division, and purchase new vehicles and equipment. The expanded services, including adding staff, are expected to cost $54 million.

The district attorney’s office will restore two positions removed during the pandemic and get about $186.3 million. The office plans to expand its legal unit, technology operations, bureau of investigations, and a task force.

A plan to expand services at the Public Defender’s office will include $9.8 million to restore staff positions, $2.5 million for body-worn camera requirements, and $500,000 for a convictions integrity unit.

The Community Services Department received funds for several areas, including housing, mental health services, maintenance, animal shelter, Dana Point Harbor, a domestic violence program, a child support program, and parks and libraries.

The budget will include funding from a second installment of $308 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding the county expects to receive this month. The funds have been used for a meal program to support seniors, people with disabilities, and others who are experiencing food insecurity from the pandemic.

The funds will also pay for a grant program to support arts-related small businesses and nonprofits to help them recover from the pandemic and establish a new Orange County Emergency Medical Services Operating Facility on county-owned land in Irvine for disaster management services and a public health laboratory.

The county will also fund a Be Well South Campus for mental health and addiction services in Irvine. The funds will also assist housing stability and pay for a new Youth Transition Center for programming, educational services, health, and mental health services, and provide housing for juvenile offenders and other youth.

The budget also includes about $20 million for a planned state-run veterans cemetery.

The county’s health care agency requested $9.7 million and an additional 47 positions to implement a Street Medicine Program.

The county’s OC CARES program was funded to support its programs in behavioral health, healthcare, community corrections, housing, and other support services.

As part of the program, the county will continue funding affordable and supportive housing units in all areas of the county. To date, 680 housing units have been built, 816 are under construction, and 722 units are in progress of funding.

The county’s revenues grew by nearly the same amount, totaling $7.8 billion—a 7.1 percent increase over the prior fiscal year. This includes a $10 million reduction in funds from the county’s retirement system investment account.

The county expects the Consumer Price Index to fall nearly 2 percentage points to 3.1 percent in 2022.

County infrastructure, including utilities and public works, received nearly $1.7 billion in the budget for capital improvements, landfill programs, air quality improvement, airport construction programs, and other projects.

As part of the infrastructure budget, the county will finish construction on the County Administration North building, expected to be completed by the end of summer.

The county’s general administrative services—including the Board of Supervisors, County Clerk, Treasurer’s Office, Registrar of Voters, Auditor, and Assessor’s office—will be funded at nearly $776 million.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.
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