Santa Clara County passed an $8.1 billion budget that funds major projects, including the buy-out of three additional hospitals, and adds 1,800 new positions to the payroll.
“I’m pleased to see a balanced budget focusing on completing crucial initiatives, strengthening existing services and funding non-profit programs that benefit our community,” County Executive Jeff Smith said in a news release. “This budget is our last year of expansion before an economic downturn is upon us. Revenue growth is slowing down. Funding threats are expected from the state and federal governments. And the demand for services is expected to increase as the cost of services is expected to continue growing in the years ahead. Maintaining existing services and prudent spending are expected priorities for the future.”
The 2019-20 spending plan is nearly 16 percent bigger than last year’s, largely because the county acquired O’Connor and Saint Louise Regional hospitals and the DePaul Health Center in a $235 million deal earlier this spring.
Also included in the new budget is an expansion of the Valley Medical Center emergency room, a new animal services facility in South County, a Vietnamese-American community center and sweeping criminal justice reforms.
An ongoing overhaul of the county election system is another big priority this coming year, as well as building a new foster youth center and a facility for juvenile and adult psychiatric inpatient services.
The budget includes allocations for properties to accommodate the county’s growing workforce, which is approaching the 22,000-employee mark. Namely, $100 million to remodel an old Cisco Systems building in North San Jose and $5 million to spruce up an office complex on Silver Creek Valley Road.
Additionally, the Board of Supervisors made a combined 60 requests for $6.6 million in one-time grants for community organizations. Some $350,000 was pegged for Child Advocates of Silicon Valley and $325,000 for the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. The West Valley Community Services will receive $250,000 to expand its food pantry for needy families.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez proposed $45,000 for the George Mark Children’s House’s Pediatric Palliative Care Program. “This is an investment in creating a loving and supportive environment for critically ill children and their family members,” she said.
Another $5 million is set aside to preserve land through an agricultural conservation program, which lets an agency buy the development rights of a property while allowing farming to continue. The program targets the purchase of 12,000 acres at a cost of anywhere between $250 million and $500 million.
“This is just a start,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese, co-chair of the Agricultural Task Force that developed the conservation plan. “And a recognition that keeping our agricultural land is a priority of this County. We will work to grow this funding through partnerships with the Open Space Authority and other agencies.”
Supervisor Mike Wasserman’s requested $50,000 to renovate the South Santa Clara Valley Memorial District Veterans Hall, and $75,000 for the YMCA of Silicon Valley’s Project Cornerstone, which supports anti-bullying campaigns in local schools.
“The current needs of our two million residents far outpace revenues, which makes this year’s budget a herculean balancing act,” he said. “I am pleased that we were able to dedicate $5 million for agricultural preservation easements and that two of my inventory items will help fund needed Veteran’s Hall renovations, as well as Project Cornerstone’s anti-bullying programs in 72 local schools.”
Among Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s proposals is a $90,000 grant to the Bill Wilson Center to help house as many homeless youth as possible in 100 days. “No one should be living in their car, under bridges or near overpasses in our communities, especially our youth,” she said. “And after our last point-in-time count, which showed a rise in homelessness across our state, I believe that this investment in supporting our youth through an organization not only known as a leading expert in homeless youth policy but also a provider of housing sites for our youth, makes sense and is necessary.”
The board also established a general fund contingency reserve of $164 million.
“We’re fortunate to be living in relatively prosperous times,” board President Joe Simitian said. “But there are still so many folks who need our help.” Simitian noted, “even in good times, there’s always more we wish we could do; so our budget becomes more than just an accounting document, it’s the place where we identify our priorities, make hard choices and express our values.”
To review the entire budget document, click here.