Since last fall, individual members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors have distributed up to $4.8 million in funds within their districts at their own discretion.
They donated to the Rancho Cucamonga High-Tech Youth Library Project, upgrades to senior centers in mountain communities, and upgrades to parks in the highlands.
At its Sept. 21 meeting, the board established the Board of Oversight’s District-Specific Priorities Program Fund, which would disburse up to $20 million over the next four years, beginning with an initial allocation of $4. millions of dollars. At its Nov. 16 meeting, the board set aside an additional $7 million for the program.
There was no discussion of the fund at either meeting, either by board members or members of the public. Votes to create and further fund the fund were incorporated into the “consent” portion of meeting agendas, meaning dozens of items – mostly routine – were decided en masse by a single vote of the advice.
The discretionary fund is supposed to provide up to $20 million for projects over a four-year period, according to the agenda for the Sept. 21 supervisor’s meeting. Projects or services must cost at least $50,000, and an additional 5% is added to the cost of each allowance to pay for staff and other administrative costs, according to a county report prepared for the article. The money is divided equally among the county’s five districts.
As of March 15, board members appear to have allocated $4,850,810 from their discretionary funds.
- On Nov. 16, the board approved $48,000 to pay Tamrin Olden for communications advice related to the coronavirus pandemic.
- On January 11, council approved up to $50,0000 for upgrades to the Magnolia Recreation Center in Upland, and up to $50,000 in funding and maintenance and repair costs for the Foothill Family Shelter in Upland.
- On January 25, the board approved up to $535,000 for improvements to Upland’s Magnolia and Greenbelt Parks, up to $540,000 for improvements to Twin Peaks Senior/Community Center and Robert Hootman Senior/Community Center in Running Springs, up to $100,000 for search and rescue equipment for Rim of the World Search and Rescue, and up to $100,310 for search and rescue equipment for West Valley Search and Rescue.
- On February 8, the council approved up to $200,000 for improvements to four pavilions in Fontana, up to $370,000 for improvements to Fontana’s Southridge Park, up to $275,000 to replace the terrace and Fontana’s Village of Heritage Pool Perimeter Fencing, up to $2 million for upgrades to Rancho Cucamonga’s Second Story and Beyond Educational Center at the Paul A. Biane Library, and up to $50,000 in fundraising for the Mountain Homeless Coalition.
- On March 1, the board approved up to $128,000 for improvements to the West End YMCA’s Chino Valley location.
- And on March 15, the board approved up to $264,500 for improvements to the West End YMCA’s Upland location, and up to $140,000 for three Mount Baldy area programs.
In all cases, with the exception of the November 16 allocation, the expenses were not listed as coming from the discretionary fund on the meeting agenda. Only by reviewing the specific and separate document for each expense item on that date will a taxpayer know that the money is coming from the discretionary fund.
Giving each supervisor discretionary funds allows every part of the county to benefit from taxpayer funds, council chairman Curt Hagman said.
County government has more jurisdiction outside incorporated cities and towns, which means that much of the council’s spending does not normally benefit residents of an urban district such as Hagman’s, which includes Chino, Chino Hills, Montclair, Ontario and part of Upland.
“It allows us to have a more focused focus on where we’re spending county funds,” Hagman said. “We have more resources than we had in the past.”
The majority of funds spent so far have been by Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, whose district includes Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga and part of Upland.
“Having been in this office for some time, I am acutely aware of the needs in the regions I represent and the projects that have been seeking funding for some time,” Rutherford said. “Two of my cities reached out to me and asked, and one of them didn’t, but when I called and asked, they certainly had some sound ideas.”
This is his last year on the board, due to term limits, and Rutherford could end up spending the portion of the Second District’s discretionary funds before his successor is elected in November.
“Each district can spend the money over four or five years, but when that happened I only had about a year left,” she said. “It’s not a challenge to find good places for the money because I know what the needs and priorities are.”
Despite her use of the funds, Rutherford says she’s not a fan of discretionary funds in general.
“It was one of the things I fought to get rid of when I was elected 12 years ago, but it was the direction the CEO wanted to go,” she said. declared.
Rutherford thinks discretionary funds have been misused in the past.
“When I came to the board, it was the type of money that was politically abused. Some board members were spending it at the time for their own identity or even for political purposes, even though it was taxpayers’ money,” she said.
The current version of discretionary funds has certain safeguards. Funds cannot be spent on buildings or structures named after an overseer, according to Rutherford. And there’s a minimum amount of spending involved, so supervisors can’t apportion taxpayer money during the campaign season.
“But there are a lot of good projects and organizations that can spend the money well, if chosen well,” Rutherford said.
Unless extended prior to this date, the discretionary fund program is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2025.