The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider granting a fair chunk of change to a nonprofit trying to set itself up as a small business support center.
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley is applying for a grant from the state Small Business Administration to set up a satellite office for the Northern California Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which target Hispanic-owned small businesses. For that, the chamber’s asking for $65,000 in county cash to help meet the local matching funds requirement to secure the grant—it already received a $35,000 loan from the bank, according to a memo signed by County Executive Jeff Smith.
The chamber’s also asking if the county would consider shelling out $225,000 more next year to help it become a larger, countywide SBDC. The support center would help any small business with marketing plans, sales, affordable financing, funding, government contracting and other resources, the chamber says.
Smith recommends granting the $65,000 with unobligated funds from his own budget this year and again the next. He also suggests supervisors give the go-ahead to run up the Silicon Valley-wide center for $225,000 in the next couple years. What makes the request seem a little questionable, as far as priorities go, is that Smith reports his office has a surplus and wants to allocate those funds while there is a countywide deficit in the tens of millions. Within Smith’s recommendation, he also advises supervisors to formally support a bill authored by State Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) that would allow for the state to provide matching funds for such endeavors.
There are legitimate concerns about the local economy and job market. Small business accounts for two-thirds of all jobs in the national economy, the county says. In Silicon Valley, where the tech boom creates more and more jobs in clean tech, biotech and high-tech sectors, there’s a concurrent need to boost job growth in the economic sector that supports the local, regional needs of residents and the commercial sector.
“Employment trends in this economy suggest that this sector, by all measures, lags behind the resurgence that is being enjoyed by the sectors more commonly associated with Silicon Valley,” the county memo reads.
The economic meltdown devastated minority workers much more than the rest of the population, the report continues. Median household wealth amongst Latinos plummeted from $18,359 to $6,325 between 2005 and 2009—a staggering 68 percent drop, the most dramatic of all minority groups, the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project found.
Median household wealth fell 53 percent among black households and 16 percent for white households during that same timeframe, the Pew report says. Joint Venture Silicon Valley projects a similar downward trajectory. While most ethnicities upped their per-capital income in 2011, black and Latino populations per-capita earnings dove 18 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
“Small businesses, and businesses owned by Latinos, nationally were also the hardest hit by the recession,” the memo says.
County officials say local government has a vested interest in supporting small businesses since it’s investing a ton of money to help needy families train for and find jobs. The local arm of the Social Services Agency handed out $6.6 million in 2012 to help 4,486 cash-strapped residents find the right classes and job training.
• The county wants to make it easier to pass taxes by lowering the threshold for voter approval. Most taxes don’t pass, because local measures require supermajority approval—the state Constitution mandates two-third voter approval for locally imposed taxes, like special taxes, parcel taxes and general obligation bonds.
But the county wants to change the threshold for some taxes from a super- to simple majority. Supervisors will weigh in on the matter Tuesday.
“The current two-thirds vote requirement for locally-imposed taxes results in the failure of most measures,” the county says. “For example, for recent parcel tax elections, 66 percent of measures requiring a majority vote passed, while only 45 percent of the measures requiring a supermajority passed. However, a substantial portion of the losing two-thirds measures achieved a clear majority; if the vote requirement had been 55 percent, 75 percent would have passed. Additionally, proponents for lowering the vote requirement argue that current law allows the minority of voters to thwart the will of the majority.”
Since this proposal would change the state constitution, it would need a two-thirds vote from the legislature to pass before landing on a general election ballot to require only a simple majority to become law.
• Another items on Tuesday’s agenda directly involves a nonprofit for which Cindy Chavez—a District 2 county supervisor candidate—serves as a board member. The Santa Clara Family Health Foundation raises money to pay down insurance premiums for low-income children supported by the Santa Clara Family Health Plan. The foundation is asking the county for $29,207 to fund some extra office help for the Baby Gateway project, which gives poor families better access to healthcare for infants younger than a year old. It will be interesting to see how much information supervisors require for the funds.
• In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control awarded a $3.6 million grant to the county for obesity prevention. The grant carried the county through 2012, allowing it to buy a multi-lingual ad campaign, “Drowning in Sugar,” which advised the public to give children water instead of sugary soft drinks. County officials this week will weigh the option of extending another $25,000—boosting the year’s total to $212,619—in funding to research firm Samuels and Associates to study the effects of the campaign.
• Since state law changed in 2011 to allow non-violent offenders release from incarceration, the county’s Office of Pretrial Services has been overwhelmed with case loads twice the national average. To keep up with the demands of making decisions about detention and release, the county is looking to hire another five employees. The new hires will cost about $577,000 a year, starting immediately, paid for by county public safety realignment funds.
• Record storage and retrieval costs the county about $5.1 million every five years. Supervisors will discuss whether to extend a contract with Iron Mountain Information Management, Inc., another few years and up that amount spent, by that time, to $8.1 million. The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center uses about 97 percent of that records storage-retrieval capacity.
• When Caltrans was building the Guadalupe Corridor Freeway in the 1970s, the county relinquished a swath of land for the project. But 10 parcels remain leftover, which the county plans to sell for a little more than $150,000 to fund other road improvements. Property sales need four-fifths approval from supervisors, so it’s up to them to agree to sell the land to the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
• Sewer rates may increase to help pay for $2.2 billion in improvements to the 50-year-old San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant. Supervisors will consider setting a public hearing about the fee hike in June.
Parts of the county already saw a 25-percent increase in sewer and sanitation fees last year, but the county says another bump is needed to cover costs. For a single-family home, the fee increase averages out to an extra 15 percent, or $5.36, a month for a total average annual bill of $493.49.
WHAT: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meet
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose