Poised for an economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Mateo County Manager’s Office released its recommended two-year budget amounting to $6.3 billion and largely directed toward health services.

“This budget reflects funding and expenditures for our ongoing efforts against COVID-19 and recovery programs to help our residents, small businesses, and community organizations weather the continued uncertainty,” County Manager Mike Callagy said in a press release. “The bottom line is that we will emerge as a stronger and more resilient community for the future.”

The recommended budget proposes spending roughly $3.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2021-22, a decrease of about $329 million compared to the current fiscal year due to the end of one-time pandemic funding sources. A budget of nearly $3 billion is proposed for Fiscal Year 2022-23.

More than 30% of the budget is slated to support health services each year with County Health ranking highest for department budgets. Most of the net new 26 positions proposed to be filled in the next fiscal year will be going to health services as well with no additional options proposed for the following fiscal year.

Initially faced with a $57 million deficit, County Health has reduced its deficit by more than half through staff reductions, reassigning contracts, modifying services and acquiring new revenue streams. Additional solutions to resolve a $23 million gap in Fiscal Year 2022-23 will be brought back to the board next year.

Chief of Health Louise Rogers shared appreciation for the recommended budget’s inclusion of increased funding from federal and state resources to the department. While working to reduce its deficit and simultaneously providing care to some of the county’s most underserved, County Health has also played a major role in addressing and mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in the county.

“Our Board of Supervisors has long supported a robust public health and health care safety net and this budget continues to reflect that priority,” Rogers said in an emailed statement.

Additional priorities highlighted in the budget include a focus on ending homelessness through continued support of three hotels purchased through a state program to become transitional housing. Funds would cover intensive services for residents and proposed remodels.

Dollars have also been directed toward social equity through the hiring of a new Chief Equity Officer, Shireen Malekafzali, who will be tasked with developing and incorporating countywide equity-based policies.

“The pandemic has brought to light the deep inequities in our county and we must put a laser focus on expanding services in those communities most heavily impacted not only by COVID but by so many other disparities,” Callagy said. “Equity is a key focus across our entire organization going forward.”

Funding for the new Cordilleras Mental Health Center campus, slated to open in 2023, is also included in the budget along with dollars toward various park improvement projects including the 56-acre Tunitas Creek Beach project.

More than $16 million of Measure K funding would also go toward The Big Lift, a multiagency effort aimed at fighting learning loss, raising early-learning reading scores and improving school attendance.

In total, the budget proposes roughly $1.4 billion for community services, $1.36 billion for administration and fiscal costs, just under $1 billion for criminal justice services and more than $578 million for social services.

David Canepa, president of the Board of Supervisors, praised the recommended budget in a statement while highlighting his own goals for ending the pandemic and stimulating the local economy.

“When I assumed the board presidency in January, I had two goals — end COVID and stimulate the economy. This budget shows we are well positioned to recover economically and provide support for struggling businesses as we emerge from this pandemic,” Canepa said.

Still, the county has a long way to go in its recovery, noted officials. Callagy said the recommended budget is intended to “reflect the need for restraint and caution” while investing in recovery.

Canepa said the county is now also tasked with improving community resources given the sustained disparities only exacerbated by the pandemic.

“COVID has highlighted disparities in our community that must be addressed in how we provide resources and services to our disadvantaged residents, particularly our aging population,” Canepa said. “This spending plan must reflect that everyone, regardless of the ZIP code you live in, or age or color of your skin, has a seat at the table.”

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(1) comment

tdonnelly

Could they be more vague? The County Manager says they will be "equity focused" going forward. There is no explanation of what is meant by "equity". My guess is its a way to avoid discrimination laws. As this proposal would cost over 6 grand from every person in the County on average, I think we need more facts and figures.

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