The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved a $2.26 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022/2023, which began July 1.
To give a broad overview, though this is certainly not comprehensive, among the funding allocated: $5.5 million to increase General Fund reserves; $2.8 million to complete the county’s General Plan update; $1.5 million over three years to support Health Action 2.0; $5.5 million for emergency preparedness and disaster response, including an update to the 9-1-1 dispatch system; $5 million for the construction of the Behavioral Health Housing Unit at the Main Adult Detention Facility; $3.3 million to support programs preventing and addressing homelessness, including funding to support the board’s reorganization of homeless services, to support continued operations at Los Guilicos Village, and to support a contract with Legal Aid to assist those at risk of losing their housing; and much more.
Additionally, we were able to find funding for several board and community budget requests, including the development of a $10 million Community Infrastructure Investment Fund; funding for the development of a Food Distribution Network, which will include providers throughout the county including the Sonoma Valley, which is too frequently left out; $200,000 for the Secure Families collaborative to provide support for undocumented residents; and $6.5 million for groundwater sustainability and water security (including subsidies for rural residential and agricultural well owners in the Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley groundwater sustainability agencies, among others.
I want to be sure to highlight that the board was able to support $1.4 million towards improvements to Maxwell Farms Regional Park. Additionally, a $1 million dollar earmark for Maxwell Farms was approved as part of the state budget in June. I want to thank Assemblymember Marc Levine for his advocacy at the state level. I could not be more excited for the first phase of implementation of Maxwell Farm’s Master Plan to get underway; the board is scheduled to approve initiation of the 1st phase of Maxwell Farm Regional Park renovation – new soccer field and baseball field, and more.
While I was pleased with the outcome of funding for Maxwell Farms, I was disappointed not to find majority support from my fellow board members on several other critical requests I made for the First District – specifically, funding for improvements to Larson Park, as well as for pedestrian safety improvements to Highway 12 in the Springs, along the Donald Gap.
The Sonoma Valley parks and pedestrian connections serve large populations from both the City of Sonoma and the Springs area, including disadvantaged populations of youth and adults in the unincorporated communities in particular. The costs to renovate and add facilities to the parks, and to improve the Donald Gap, are high, and our attempts to apply for state and federal funding have largely been unsuccessful to date. State grant programs have trended towards higher density, and at times relatively more disadvantaged communities, and while those are certainly valuable investments, I still see great need in the Sonoma Valley that is being overlooked.
The pedestrian gap along Highway 12 at Donald Street is a relic of Highway 12 widening over a decade ago; it has been one of the Springs community’s highest priorities. With some funding allocated from the PG&E settlement, added to part of the funding of the infrastructure package, we will be able to complete redesign of the intersection to help make this project shovel ready for application for a state-funded grant in the near future to complete the realignment, sidewalks and safer passage across the bridge. This will be the final gap of the Highway 12 widening project spanning two decades and three supervisors.
It’s clear to me that our board is challenged when it comes to funding multi-million dollar capital investments for parks, bike paths and bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements, and more. We do not have a strategy to prioritize these projects, or to pursue grant funding aggressively. I have seen projects languish over long stretches as they hang on to “wish lists,” but never quite have the support they need to get off the ground.
Parks, recreation, and bike and pedestrian projects are deeply important to me. I issued a challenge to the County Administrator to better coordinate with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) on funding and project development when it comes to bike and pedestrian projects in particular, and I hope my fellow board members who serve on SCTA take up that challenge as well.
The $10 million Community Infrastructure Investment Fund we approved will be split evenly amongst the five supervisorial districts; I will be blunt, $2 million will not go very far towards the many critical projects in the First District. While these kinds of projects may appear local, or to benefit only a few, I think it is clear that improved parks, bike lanes, roadways, and other infrastructure projects benefit our county as a whole, and require we all work together to achieve these benefits. I celebrate what we were able to accomplish, and I intend to continue to work to accomplish more.