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North and south bound traffic is backed up in the mid afternoon during construction on the Cedar Avenue Interchange in Bloomington on Thursday, June 13, 2024.  San Bernardino County supervisors have approved a $9.85 billion budget that includes $32.8 million for infrastructure improvements, including improving the Cedar Avenue Interchange on the 10 Freeway in Bloomington on Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
North and south bound traffic is backed up in the mid afternoon during construction on the Cedar Avenue Interchange in Bloomington on Thursday, June 13, 2024. San Bernardino County supervisors have approved a $9.85 billion budget that includes $32.8 million for infrastructure improvements, including improving the Cedar Avenue Interchange on the 10 Freeway in Bloomington on Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
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San Bernardino County expects to spend $9.85 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1 under a plan approved by the Board of Supervisors this week.

The adopted budget forecasts a 2.8%, or $285.4 million, drop in spending from the current year, due primarily to decreases in federal coronavirus-relief funds that have been used for capital improvement projects, according to county officials. Overall, the budget adopted by supervisors Tuesday, June 11, is balanced with $118.2 million set aside in the general fund for unanticipated costs.

The budget is a “living document,” Chairperson Dawn Rowe said, giving supervisors the flexibility to respond to changes as the come.

“We can adjust this,” she added. “Natural disasters happen, things happen, forecasts may or may not always come in where we want them to be … and we can adjust.”

About 30% the county’s budget supports human services — $2.96 billion is allocated for public health initiatives and programs that serve veterans, families with lower incomes and those in need of other assistance — a point emphasized by supervisors Tuesday.

“We help a lot of people,” Supervisor Joe Baca Jr. said, calling attention to the county’s investments in affordable housing and a planned crisis treatment center to support children who need care. “We make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Here are some key initiatives highlighted in the 2024-25 budget.

Homelessness

Late last month, the county reported a slight increase in homelessness over the previous year, when it established a $40 million fund to bolster the number of emergency shelter beds and other types of housing to address homelessness countywide. According to the budget document, the county has allocated $13 million from the fund toward three projects that will add a combined 350 shelter beds in Fontana and San Bernardino, when complete.

In the coming year, the county expects to spend $33.3 million more on a program that offers rapid rehousing services for Medi-Cal families and youth and interim housing for older residents or those with disabilities.

Public safety

With some 50 new positions approved in next year’s budget, the Sheriff’s Department plans to shore up its operations in the High Desert by deploying an additional homeless outreach team and adding staff to the High Desert Detention Center, where higher-level security inmates, including those in protective custody and those who are seriously mentally ill, are housed. Increasing detention center staffing is expected to improve medical and mental health treatment, county officials say.

Overall, the county expects to spend $1.5 billion on public safety staffing and programming in the sheriff’s, district attorney’s, public defender’s and probation departments.

Infrastructure

Of the $32.8 million budgeted for infrastructure improvements, the county has allocated $17.8 million for various projects such as reconstructing two , also known as the National Trails Highway, improving the on the 10 Freeway in Bloomington, and purchasing snow equipment in the aftermath of a 2023 blizzard that caused significant damage in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Community spaces

Shade structures at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, a reimagining of the Glen Helen Amphitheater, upgrades to various county parks and the creation of AniMakerspaces by Garner Holt, an animatronics firm based in Redlands, are all covered by a $36.2 million community services budget.

Elections

With the 2024 presidential election less than five months away, the county has pledged an additional $10 million to the Registrar of Voters Office to administer the election. According to the budget report, the registrar’s office plans to hire hundreds of “extra-help employees” and temporary workers to work the polls and process ballots in the Nov. 5 election.

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