Supervisors Set to Approve $8.6 Billion Budget for 2023-24

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors is slated tomorrow to
tentatively approve an $8.61 billion budget for Riverside County government in
fiscal year 2023-24, with greater appropriations to fund public safety projects
and reopen an animal shelter.
The board held hearings on the proposed budget on June 12-13 and
received multiple requests for increased appropriations beyond what had
originally been proposed for departments. The supervisors ultimately agreed to
$25.3 million in additional funding obligations.
Even with the increases, the budget remains structurally balanced,
according to the county Executive Office.
“This current budget reflects investments in many of our most needed
areas,” board Chairman Kevin Jeffries said.
Sheriff Chad Bianco testified that the Sheriff’s Department was “on
track to end 2022-23 with a balanced budget,” but he had a handful of needs
unmet in the spending plan laid out by the EO, which proposed $1.01 billion in
expenditures, compared to $942 million in the current-year budget.
The sheriff said among the higher costs built into next year’s budget
is an “enhanced management” policy that will put lieutenants in station-based
supervisory roles, ensuring more sergeants are “out in the field with
The board committed to providing $1.45 million to the effort.
Bianco also said he wanted to establish a permanent “problem-oriented
policing” team to handle noise and party complaints, particularly on the
weekends, largely in the unincorporated mountain communities and the Temecula
Valley, where the majority of short-term rental properties in the county are
located. Four deputies would be dedicated to the POP unit, as well as at least
four Department of Code Enforcement officers.
The board is committing $662,000 in support of the POP initiative.
The sheriff did not request additional funds to fully open the John J.
Benoit Detention Center in Indio, where just under 400 inmate beds are in
use, out of a potential 1,600 available at the facility.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin requested $2.5 million more in the
agency’s proposed budget than recommended by the EO, bringing his total ask to
$191.14 million.
The board has committed to $2.1 million in additional appropriations,
mainly for establishment of a full-time call center to assist members of the
community in need of assistance from the D.A.’s office, as well as make 15
temporary employees permanent.
Hestrin listed a number of challenges weighing on the D.A.’s office,
including the Legislature’s plethora of new mandates and an ongoing departure
of personnel, largely through retirements. The agency is down to 234
prosecutors — the lowest number in the last decade. The average caseload per
deputy district attorney is 100.
Fire Chief Bill Weiser originally sought $537 million in
appropriations, with the EO recommending $457.3 million. The current-year
budget is $443.4 million.
Some of the budgetary requirements he cited were expansion of the
hazardous materials unit, the ongoing conversion of three fire stations from
wildland outposts to municipal stations and bulking up staff at the Cabazon and
French Valley stations to ensure a higher level of “surge staffing” is
available for Wildfire Season between July and November.
“It’ll add that extra horsepower we’ll probably need to get through
fire season,” he told the board.
The supervisors have committed to $5.7 million more to meet the fire
department’s immediate needs.
The board also embraced a Department of Animal Services proposal to
reopen the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, at a cost of $3.4 million.
The facility was shut down in fiscal year 2019-20 due to the
department’s inability to overcome years-long budgetary shortfalls.
County CEO Jeff Van Wagenen said the proposed budget “creates the
opportunity to enhance the efforts of our departments providing vital programs
for our constituents countywide.”
The proposed budget is roughly 15% larger than the current year’s
budget of $7.45 billion. Close to half of the appropriations are comprised of
state and federal “pass-through” funds, over which the board has little to no
One of the highlights in the roughly 1,000-page budget report was the
projection for reserve funds to reach $555 million by the end of 2023-24,
compared to an estimated $537 million reserve pool projected at the close of
the current fiscal year on June 30.
The new budget will be reassessed and likely re-adjusted in September,
at the close of the state’s fiscal year.

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