Uncertainty as it relies on 48% of funds from federal government
By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County supervisors took a peek at a proposed $3 billion budget on Tuesday that includes $250,000 to expand a popular health care program for low income citizens, $220,000 to reopen the shuttered Knightsen fire station in the East Contra Costa Fire District, and spend $500,000 for the Northern Waterfront Study Intiative.
Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the new spending plan at its May 9 meeting to replace the current $2.6 billion budget.
During the seven-hour hearing, some supervisors seemed to play the conservative card due to fiscal events that have developed in Washington, D.C. and how federal cuts in health care, education and housing might have a ripple effect at the state and county level.
County Administrator David Twa said the county receives 48 percent of its funds from the federal government so there is concern that funding cuts from Washington will impact county operations if not in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, it could occur in the 2018-2019 fiscal year when the county needs to renegotiate labor contracts with doctors, nurses. and fire fighters.
“This is one of the most difficult budgets to assemble,” Twa told supervisors, “because there is so much uncertainty at the state and federal levels.”
The fiscal uncertainty also affected the supervisors.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said she would not approve the proposal for an additional $250,000 to expand the Contra Costa Cares health care program for low income residents. The county allotment would be matched by the nonprofit organization to help access the health care program to 1,000 residents. This current fiscal year the county spent $1 million and has proposed $1.25 million for the upcoming 2017-2018 fiscal year.
“There’s a large part of the community that doesn’t understand why we see a part of the undocumented community the way we do, but in this case, I cannot support spending an extra $250,000 for the Contra Costa Cares program,” Mitchoff said.
Mitchoff also raised doubts that Contra Costa Cares has the fundraising capabilities to collect $250,000 to expand the program. “The hospital is not committed to contributing the $250,000,” she said.
“We’re seeing the rise of people awareness to their right to health care,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood. She favors the extra funding for the health care program that drew about eight speakers in support of the health care program. “I’m in support of expanding it,” she said.
Initially supervisors were reluctant in setting aside $220,000 to reopen the Knightsen fire station for fiscal years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, but eventually caved in to reality that the station needed to opened. Supervisors are frustrated over the way the ECCFD has managed its financial and business affairs. The fire district had shuttered the fire station in order to open a new station in Brentwood..
Supervisors also voted 4-0, with Supervisor Candace Andersen absent, to designate $500,000 for the Northern Water Front Study Initiative, a project of Board Chair Federal Glover. The funding would be spent on data development, parcel identification, engineering, and public outreach.
New Airport Safety Classifications Approved
Supervisors also approved the creation for four Airport Safety Office Classifications at the Byron Airport and Buchanan Field to replace three outdated classifications that should help the county improve the retention rate among safety personnel. The county has a 60 percent retention rate among 17 personnel assigned to aircraft rescue and firefighting duties.