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Sonoma County approves $1.47 billion annual budget

After agreeing on nearly $1.5 billion in spending on big ticket items like law enforcement and health services, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday spent the last two hours of budget deliberations on relative pocket change, including three items of less than $100,000.

Nine special funding requests totaling $1.6 million were tacked onto the $1.47 billion budget the supervisors scrutinized in an all-day hearing on Monday.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the board unanimously approved the county's 2014-15 spending plan, prompting Chairman David Rabbitt to say he was “very proud of the budget we passed today.”

The smallest special request was $20,000 to support a pair of documentary films, although Supervisor Susan Gorin cited it in questioning the wisdom of funding items that surface “on the fly.”

Regional Parks emerged as the major beneficiary of the additional spending, with $577,000 for deferred park maintenance, $135,000 for a park planner to help handle the department's workload and almost $104,000 for enhanced management of the Joe Rodota Trail along Highway 12 from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.

Supervisors invited the special requests, asking Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart on Monday if her staff needed more help getting designated park land opened to public use.

“What do you need to do your job?” Gorin asked.

Hart said she had focused her staffing on field services, leaving the office staff with a “slightly frazzled feel to it.”

Considerable discussion focused on a proposal to expand a mental health training program to four high schools not currently involved in the program.

The cost of that expansion — to establish the Crisis Assessment and Prevention Education (CAPE) program at Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools in Petaluma, Cloverdale High and Rancho Cotate in Rohnert Park — was initially pegged at $200,000 Monday. It grew to $470,000 Tuesday before being scaled back to $350,000, based on Department of Health Services Assistant Director Tammy Chandler's report that it would take until January to get the new programs rolling.

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