PALM DESERT – The new Riverside County budget which takes effect today, July 1, includes funding for key priorities for the Coachella Valley and Blythe area, benefiting residents of the cities and unincorporated communities of the county’s Fourth District and the county as a whole.
The new county budget puts funding into preventing fires, upgrading fire stations, addressing homelessness, delivering behavioral health and substance use treatment, bolstering public safety, and investing in unincorporated communities.
Supervisor V. Manuel Perez supported the county budget, which passed unanimously June 21.
“Our budget plan addresses some of the most critical needs in the Coachella Valley and the Blythe community, and Riverside County overall,” said Supervisor Perez. “I am proud that we are providing funding for the great work of departments and solutions to concerns such as fires in the eastern Coachella Valley that we are getting better at preventing. The budget hearings highlighted new initiatives by our county to transform services and work towards better outcomes on many different fronts and support individuals and families in improving their lives. I appreciate this budget process and the support of my colleagues and county staff for these services and programs.”
The county’s budget hearings on June 13 and June 14 featured presentations by county leaders on budget needs that the Riverside County Supervisors considered for funding. The following are initiatives that were included in the final budget:
Funding for Combustible Materials Taskforce
The Supervisors approved $1.575 million, $1.4 million to the Riverside County Fire Department and $175,000 to Code Enforcement, towards fire prevention in eastern Riverside County. Formed in 2019 with Supervisor Perez’s support, the Combustible Materials Taskforce works to prevent fires caused by mulch, green waste and illegal dumping in the desert. This funding will help obtain heavy fire equipment such as a dozer, and increase staffing for the taskforce. The Fire Chief reported that having this equipment stationed close by can combat wildland fires quicker and significantly reduce the size of the fires. It was also reported that, since the taskforce was formed in 2019, there has been a significant reduction in the number of fires.
Upgrades to North Bermuda Dunes Fire Station 81
A project to upgrade the North Bermuda Dunes Fire Station, located near Sun City Palm Desert, is budgeted for the Riverside County Fire Department this year. The project will renovate the older fire station to improve the living and working conditions of the firefighters stationed there.
Homelessness treatment court
The Riverside County District Attorney reported on efforts to expand a “collaborative court” for persons experiencing homelessness. The court will help individuals facing criminal prosecution to get treatment and clean their records. Similar to the county’s Veterans Court, the District Attorney’s office will work with other county departments, community agencies and the individuals to address underlying needs and resolve the case without incarceration, fines and fees, with the goal of collaborating to get better outcomes. The District Attorney reported that this court is expanding to be a countywide court for the first time.
Behavioral health and substance use treatment
The Board approved an additional $1 million for the county’s Behavioral Health department to plan and design “Recovery Villages,” one of which is slated for the City of Coachella. The visionary concept proposes a full‑service campus that will have a safe, monitored and therapeutic community and living space and simultaneously deliver high quality person-first treatment for behavioral health. The director of Behavioral Health reported that, in the last year, Riverside County opened the most housing to support behavioral health consumers of any county behavioral health department in the state.
Supporting public safety
The Supervisors agreed to an additional $10 million over the original county budget proposal for the Sheriff’s Department, which will go towards equipment and correctional staffing. Supervisor Perez and the county also committed to work with the Riverside County Sheriff to be helpful in funding further needs of the department.
Potential county-city partnership for Animal Services in Blythe
The Supervisors set aside $300,000 to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services for a proposal the county is engaging with the City of Blythe on for animal services in the Blythe community. Riverside County and the City of Blythe are in discussions on a plan for the future of the Blythe Animal Shelter.
Investment in unincorporated communities
The revised county budget approved $10 million for the county’s Unincorporated Communities Initiative. This funding, distributed among the five supervisorial districts, will prioritize projects in the county’s unincorporated communities.
In addition to these initiatives, the county budget funds the operations of the county government, which includes many services and programs provided year-round. These include animal services, vital records, veterans’ services, transportation improvements, housing programs, public health, emergency response and many more.
The budget can be found at https://www.rivco.org/about-county/budget-and-financial-information.
Supervisor V. Manuel Perez represents the eastern two-thirds of Riverside County on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Stretching from Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, south to the Salton Sea and east to Blythe and the Colorado River, the 4th District is the largest geographical district in the county.
Supervisor Perez’s office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.