Now is time for community to set goals
By Rich Desmond
The Board of Supervisors recently approved a preliminary budget that addresses some compelling needs in the county. Among the highlights are a large investment in repairing local roadways, the creation of a Crisis Response System to make sure we have the right resources to help people experiencing a mental health emergency, and a new commitment to addressing our growing homelessness crisis.
I am proud of these efforts. But it’s just the beginning of our budget process for the next fiscal year. The board will need to approve a final budget in September after the state budget is approved. And we must decide how to handle a significant amount of relief funds from the federal government.
Sacramento County will receive approximately $300 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help offset future revenue losses and other impacts of the pandemic. There are many opinions about how federal stimulus dollars should be used.
County reserves are at historic lows. There’s a pressing need for money to increase our “rainy day fund” for future emergencies and economic downturns. There’s also pressure to use one-time federal funds to expand certain county programs. It’s crucial to strike the right balance. Here are some ideas I’m exploring:
Our homelessness crisis continues to grow. Meanwhile, our beloved American River Parkway is struggling from the ecological impacts of encampments in sensitive habitat areas. Our local businesses grapple with mounds of trash and debris.
We need a new approach that increases the number of safe sleeping areas, treatment options and supportive housing to help those in need, while allowing us to relocate homeless campers from commercial areas and parks. The solution will take an investment. We have a unique opportunity with some of those federal funds.
With an $800 million maintenance backlog for our unincorporated roadways and only $25 million in dedicated maintenance funding each year, the potholes just keep growing! Senate Bill 1 Gas Tax revenues that were supposed to fund repairs to our crumbling roadways are not nearly enough.
Although I am pleased we were able to get some additional resources for roadway repairs in the county budget this year, we have a long way to go. We have a unique chance to use some federal dollars for repairs.
California puts many mandates on local governments and homebuilders, which increases the cost to build housing. The need for affordable housing is growing and contributes to the number of individuals experiencing homelessness. Although District 3 already has a large amount of affordable and low-income, multi-family housing, we can and should do more, especially along some of our aging and neglected commercial corridors near transit hubs.
I am focused on expanding incentives, fee waivers and expedited local approval processes to attract more affordable and workforce housing. I will work to attract more distinctive types of housing, such as zero lot lines, environmentally friendly communities and independent senior living. I hope to use some federal funds to encourage more infill development that fits our community’s needs.
It’s no secret that crime is increasing. Constituents tell me they want more sheriff patrols. The unincorporated parts of the county already have fewer law enforcement resources than nearby cities, and we should use federal stimulus dollars to ensure we have enough officers to keep us safe.
While I will always work to make sure we have the public safety resources we need, I will also work toward more transparency, oversight and community trust in our sheriff’s department. I will advocate for programs that reduce the number of people incarcerated through diversionary efforts, pre-trial release programs, re-entry training, and opportunities and community investment. It should be the long-term goal of everyone to reduce the number of people involved in our criminal justice system.
SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF
Although our small business community has received some funding to help mitigate the pandemic, many businesses are in desperate need. We should explore ways to help local businesses recover. By investing in small businesses, we create jobs and help our commercial corridors.
I am excited to work with our local business community to make sure we identify ways to use some federal stimulus money to attract, retain and expand small businesses and grow our local economy.
I want to hear from you about your priorities for how we spend funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Please contact my office with your thoughts.
Rich Desmond is Sacramento County supervisor for District 3. He can be reached at email@example.com or (916) 874-5471. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.