Groups hoping to work with County officials to create ‘people’s budget’

IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: California Partnership’s Ipyani Lockert is hoping San Bernardino County officials consider the public's input on spending matters. Lockert and other county residents and organizations believe more funding could be allocated for social programs.
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Several organizations held a rally outside of the San Bernardino County Administrative Center last Friday to express their commitment to work with officials to construct a “people’s budget.”

The California Partnership, along with the Center for Community Action for Environmental Justice, Option House, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, and the Service Employees International Union all spoke on the importance of addressing health care and housing investments and other social services. 

“The budget is a continuing process,” California Partnership organizer Ipyani Lockert. “And we need to make sure we’re at the table.”

Back in June the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved a $5 billion budget, which allocated $3 billion to general fund spending. According to County Chief Executive Officer Dena Smith, the budget helps fund increased costs to maintain current service levels, mitigates potential impacts from the state, and continues investment in facilities and infrastructure. The budget also increased the reserves to $68 million, which includes $34.8 million to help support In-Home Supports Services (IHHS) funds.

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“As a result of the need to maintain flexibility, the 2017-18 Recommended Budget utilizes existing departmental resources or one-time funds forkey projects and programs rather than ongoing Discretionary General Funding,” reads a statement by Smith. “The County is committed to making the most of its funding to provide necessary public services in an effective and efficient manner and fulfilling its role in the achievement of the Countywide Vision.”

California Partnership’s community organizers are claiming San Bernardino County is not thoroughly spending on education and recreation and cultural service programs despite having a large carryover reserve.

As of publication, San Bernardino County officials have not responded to California Partnership’s assertions.

Many spoke about the need for increased funding for social services. Option House Executive Director Heather Stevning, for example, confirmed that there are only 250 beds available to domestic violence survivors in need of shelter. Option House has the only one shelter that helps serve victims within a 26 mile radius of San Bernardino, Stevning confirmed.

“The Housing Authority tells us they have no money to help victims,” Stevning said. “And our victims tell us there is nowhere else to go.”

Stevning said Option House is demanding lawmakers to provide expedited housing to domestic violence victims in order to avoid tragedy. In addition, the nonprofit organization is aiming to pull together empty homes and apartment complexes to revitalize them as shelters.

“We’ll fight for you,” Stevning. “We need your support.”

SEIU Local 2015 Board Delegate Madeline Nevarez Velazquez board delegate and IHSS provider thanked the San Bernardino County Supervisors for their commitment to supporting IHSS at the County level. Nevarez also hopes the County will keep the new maintenance of effort (MOE) funds to save the $38.4 million they have allocated.

“[The County] needs to lift caregivers out of poverty,” Nevarez. “Together we will rise in San Bernardino.”

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