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Board approves 2021-22 budget

The Board of Supervisors this week approved an additional $2.8 billion in funding for initiatives ranging from revamping the county’s youth justice program to cracking down on illegal cannabis grows in the Antelope Valley, signing off on a final $39.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-22.

That total will be supplemented by another $975 million in federal stimulus funding in months to come, according to county CEO Fesia Davenport.

The budget “is a milestone of all the progress we have made … as we moved through the pandemic and toward a more just and more equitable future for all of our residents,” the CEO told the board.

Davenport and the board highlighted what they characterized as a transformative change in county spending to support a vision of “Care First, Jails Last.” A total of $461.5 million is allocated to a host of strategies intended to support that model.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she was committed to see even more investment in communities which have been historically disenfranchised and in growing jail diversion programs. She mentioned a recent visit to the Men’s Central Jail Inmate Reception Center.

“We’ve seen what incarcerated people and county staff are dealing with everyday,” Mitchell said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we are still in a state of emergency.”

Debate over the balance between spending by the Sheriff’s and Probation departments versus community investment has intensified in recent years, with various officials promoting different visions of public safety. The five members of the county board have been largely unanimous in support of most Care First, Jails Last strategies, though Supervisor Kathryn Barger has been adamant about the need for sufficient jail beds until a working infrastructure of community alternatives has been established.

The board also lifted a hiring freeze Tuesday for all departments—other than the Sheriff’s Department and for Probation Department positions related to youthful offenders.