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HesperiaStar.com
  • SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

    Supervisors OK $4.3 billion budget

    4-H program saved again despite questions of funding responsibility
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  • The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $4.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2014-15, while also restoring funding for a popular youth education and leadership initiative that had been in danger of shuttering countywide.
    County supervisors voted unanimously to OK the draft spending plan, which calls for about $30 million more in Human Services funding and $19 million more for the Capital Improvement Program. The budget also compensates for a $21 million structural deficit primarily through staff cost reductions and by delaying full staffing of the High Desert Detention Center expansion until 2018.
    Including total requirements for general, special revenue, capital project, internal service and enterprise funds, the budget shrunk approximately $149 million from last year’s modified budget, according to a county staff report.
    A minuscule portion of that trimming came from the decision not to authorize funding for University of California Cooperative Extension, which costs the county $65,000 a year to support. Under UCCE’s umbrella, the 4-H program offers students training not specifically offered in schools, such as in agriculture, livestock, business, home economics and the arts.
    But the county’s role in needing to financially back the program has been disputed.
    “Basically, it does not really fit in with the county’s core responsibilities,” county spokesman David Wert said. “State law assigns very specific duties to counties...This idea that the county is essentially a piggy bank for every cause out there that is worthy is not really fitting into our mission.”
    Wert said, like last year, it was a policy decision to pay for the program, which will receive support from the only place where money is available — a fund allocated to replace worn-out county assets such as computers and sheriff’s patrol cars.
    First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood urged the board to include the program in the budget prior to Tuesday’s vote. In November, he also intervened to save the program as it then skirted the brink of closure.
    “Supporting 4H is a bargain,” Lovingood said in a written statement. “This is a small amount of money that pays dividends for our youth and adults alike.”
    According to Wert, no efforts have been made by UCCE officials, however, to provide measurable results of the program’s success. That will change next year when they’ll be required to develop program results and give them to the board “so they can make an informed decision.”
    While Wert didn’t discount the program, he concluded that the county is entrusted to spend wisely $65,000 in hard-earned taxpayer money, especially as national economic woes had forced the county into difficult decisions, including withholding cost-of-living increases for employees.
    Don Holland, a spokesman for Lovingood, said the funding restoration “made sense” and that the county 4-H program would have been shut down without it.
    “There is a federal and state-matching (component),” he said, “and if the county didn’t support the program financially, that would essentially eliminate the state and federal funding also.”
    Of about 30 scheduled public commentaries Tuesday — some heard, some rescinded after the board opted to restore funding — a majority were to advocate for the program.
    The approved spending plan also includes $6 million more to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center primarily to cover equipment replacement needs and “70 net budgeted positions related to regulatory requirements, quality improvement and to maintain staffing ratios based on volume,” according to the staff report.
    Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.
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