County supervisors address two-year fiscal goals over protests

San Mateo County supervisors who convened last week to outline some of the county's two-year fiscal priorities were again met by protesters supporting local in-home care workers.

The supervisors had met to discuss and define their “vision for the future of the county” as part of its Shared Vision 2025 plan. In 2013, the board decided to implement a two-year budget cycle to allow for longer-term budgetary decisions. The Dec. 9 meeting was part of the board's planning for fiscal years 2015-17 and covered the use of funds from Measure A as well as general funds.

But following a demonstration from a previous supervisors meeting, protesters representing In-Home Supportive Services workers returned to express complaints over the county's most recent contract offer. The union representing the home-care employees argues the proposed contract would give workers a pay raise of about a dollar per hour but that would still be lower than the $15 wage some cities including San Francisco, have approved. Several protestors who appeared at the meeting were arrested, including Service Employees International Union Local 521 President Mary Kay Henry.

“They got up and chanted at the meeting until the Sheriff's Office decided enough was enough and started arresting people,” Jim Saco of the County Manager's Office said.

After arrests were made, the supervisors continued to address the county's fiscal priorities for the upcoming two-year period. Between 20 and 25 residents gave short presentations on various organizations and services for which they hoped the county would allot funding.

The funds the county is trying to budget come primarily from Measure A, a ballot initiative passed in 2012 that appropriated $100 million for fiscal years 2013-15. The 2015-17 funding application process has been established, and the projected revenue is $80 million per year.

Supervisors said they hope to allocate funds for various priorities such as helping to reduce crime rates, improving the health and increasing the life expectancy of residents, improving below-market-rate housing options and expanding transit efforts.

The affordable-housing issue was touched on several times during the meeting, Saco said.

“This came up a couple of times: There are nonprofits that build affordable housing and they could be a good way of the county increasing the number of affordable housing units,” he said.

Supervisors also brought up environmental issues such as water conservation. District 3 Supervisor Don Horsley said he hopes that the county can allot funding to deal with invasive plant species, such as eucalyptus, which soak up a lot of water.

District 2 Supervisor Carole Groom wants to focus on preventative measures and early intervention services for at-risk populations, saying they could help save the county money down the road.

Dave Pine, the District 1 supervisor, hopes to ensure there are metrics in place as well, so the county can measure its success rates as part of the budget discussion process.The next information session on the use of Measure A funding is scheduled for today. The Board of Supervisors plans to have the budget set by September.

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