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Today, county supervisors will meet to discuss how to spend nearly a billion dollars in unrestricted dollars.

Voice of OC saw dramatic reader response to previous stories on the county’s budget — where the money should be spent and questions about transparency.

In response, we asked our readers to tell us where they think the supervisors should allocate hundreds of millions in surplus funding. Below, we detail the 170 comments we received from the public. We received these comments across our email inboxes, on our Reddit conversation, via Twitter, on our Facebook page and in response to an Instagram question.

And we also put together a live virtual podcast detailing the budget on the eve of the supervisors’ deliberations. Voice of OC Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana, Jr. led the discussion Monday, June 7, and Reporter Nick Gerda joined in to review the proposed 2022 budget so far.

Voice of OC partnered with the OC Taxpayers Association for the event — with President and CEO Carolyn Cavecche joining the conversation around budgetary transparency. Also joining the discussion was Michael Moodian, Chapman University professor and co-director of the Wilkinson College’s Orange County Annual Survey that gauges priorities amongst OC’s 3 million plus residents.

Watch the video recording from that event below or on our Facebook page.

Voice of OC Live Podcast on the Budget

OC Residents on the Budget

Residents who have never been asked by the county about how their money should be spent have been flooding discussions around Voice of OC’s budget stories with ideas ranging from giving all the surplus funds back to the public, building homeless shelters to investing in finishing transportation projects quickly.

Here’s a raw summary of those comments.

General

The actual will of the people.

If I know anything about government I’m sure it will be spent effectively and efficiently.

We need to address mental health, addiction, and education. Period. Multimillion dollar mansions with kids laying on the street wasting away in front of them and residents want them to be moved because they’re unsightly. Disgraceful. This county’s school children aren’t just being exposed to pot like in the old days, now it’s heroin. We need to stop looking the other way.

Clean up the trash and graffiti everywhere, make OC look clean and nice like it used to be.

Homeless shelters, fixing roads, education.

Orange County development has been ruined by city council and local developer/real estate interests which prioritize high-luxury development while halting all other construction projects. Nearly every affordable housing development any city in OC approves ends up as “luxury apartments” on the market when they are completed, the section along harbor blvd in costa mesa is a massive example of how the city cleared one thing but did nothing after it was changed.

Give out free tacos to everyone living in OC.

Invest in public green spaces, invest in affordable housing and ending homelessness.

Re-fund county funded programs that were cut due to “funding.”

I’m a county employee and was hoping for hazard pay. I never telecommuted.

Build a wall around HB.

Transit projects (for the love of god, light rail please, 405 expansion will only make traffic worse) and affordable housing.

Dogecoin. Send OC to the Moon.

Create new positions for deaf community!!

More police and better roads.

Build 100% affordable housing and new parks.

Donate to animal shelters.

That money will mysteriously vanish into shell corporations and be distributed to Q anon clowns. You think they are going to use it for good? They are going to skim and divert as much of it as they can…

Watch to see it does not disappear.

Build a wall along the LA border.

Literally anything but Cops and Disney.

Yolo it into AMC.

Trap and return programs for cats. More no kill animal shelters.

Government will waste it like they ALWAYS do. They will create useless programs with great sounding names. They will hire friends, relatives, campaign donors, lobbyists etc. to run those programs. Most of the money will go to salaries. Very little money will go to the people the programs are created for. Typical government corruption.

Spend it on their crony consultants, wash, rinse, repeat.

Not let Gavin Newsom waste it all.

Ah kinda like CSU systems billion dollar surplus.

Salary bump for all city employees (not srs).

They should use it to overpay their high level administrators.

Let’s be real. The money will be used to pay for the insolvent pension fund.

Lower our sales tax; fix roads.

I have a feeling that the extra money will magically disappear.

Pay Tito Ortiz a huge severance package /s.

Give it to Santa Ana.

Housing. Education. Employment.

Affordable housing, fix potholes in the streets.

Relocate Don Wagner…

Affordable housing for the homeless, school programs to help parents, meals, MH service.

End the state of emergency, fire Fake Chau and ban vax passports.

Investing in housing for the houseless, covid relief for small businesses!

We need programs that actually create safe communities! We need affordable & supportive housing to end homelessness, mental healthcare, rent relief, investment in restorative practices & systems of community care, divestment from policing & jails- #StopTheMusick jail expansion.

Put into schools and homeless care!

Build affordable homes and provide healthcare for underserved communities.

Education, housing, beautification (like trees and nice sidewalks).

Better address the systemic racism in OC public schools.

Mental Health treatment, long term disability, Early Childhood education; those are a few issues I think could use updating here in Orange County.

Help ppl! & fix all the issues in the buildings county MH and SUD staff work in!!!

Instead of investing in social control, they must fund vital programs that actually create safe communities! We need affordable & supportive housing to end homelessness, mental healthcare, rent relief, investment in restorative practices and systems of community care, divestment from policing & jails – stopping the James A. Musick jail expansion!

Housing and education.

Affordable housing. Housing for the homeless. And more trees or parks.

Build more bike lanes (especially PCH), solar-powered public transit, permanent outdoor eating.

Schools, homeless, stimulus checks for the poor.

Education and healthcare.

Shelter the homeless, child care, coastal and harbors projects to keep water clean, stop run-off pollution.

Take care of the homelessness or fix the roads.

Invest it in helping American Citizens who are lower-income for resources and careers.

More mental health professionals, college grants/funding, vaxx incentives.

Put towards mental health, homeless issues and fighting poverty.

Build affordable housing for working folks, and permanent supportive housing for the unhoused.

Infrastructure & Transportation

Start building public fiber-based internet backbone infrastructure. Provide low-cost, fast broadband to all, no-cost just-as-fast broadband to the income-qualified.

Hire top tier software engineers and PM’s to build up and cross-intergrate the IT systems. Orange County is a big enough metropolitan area to experiment and develop some very useful and interesting GovTech projects. Also, getting the best talent into government often comes down to payroll and location. If OC had the money it would be incredible to see long term us being the gold standard in IT for American governments. Would also cut out bureaucracy and save costs long term.

That money needs to be used to develop residential and industrial areas that are affordable to actually use, the people of OC need the opportunity to develop their own ventures; but instead they are currently drained at extortionate rates of housing, office space, transit, or necessary goods.

I wish they would use it to fix roads, clean up parks, paint over graffiti & help schools. Have you ever been to some of the parks in the lower income neighborhoods? They look straight out of horror movies. The amount of potholes and badly painted lanes is insane. But I’m sure the nicer areas will get most of the money.

For the love of god, please use the money to widen Ortega highway through Sjc and punish the fucking city council that blew all the millions of dollars originally provided to widen the highway on not widening the highway.

Spend it on closing the 55 during rush hour to clean graffiti again.

Shrink roads, cut lanes, reduce parking spaces and then build protected bike lanes, dedicated busways, and expanded sidewalks.

Mass Transit.

Fix our roads.

Invest in safe cycling infrastructure. More protected bike lanes.

Maintain infrastructure.

Fix the potholes and clean storm drains.

Finish that 405 freeway project faster.

Fix the damn roads downtown and get rid of all the roundabouts!

For the love of God, improve broadband infrastructure.

Outdoors & Environment

Water is an issue. Desalination plant.

Connect up the big bike lane systems into one, and license some shared ebike services. Get the cars off the road and encourage e-bike commuters.

Green projects. Strength and clean the grid, electrify buses, curbside compost collection.

Fire & Police

Use it to fund the fire department.

Invest in community health instead of police to start.

Education

Pay off school lunch debt and give the teachers money to pay for school supplies for the next school year. Also donate it to programs like the Boys and Girls club which provide so much care and acceptance to the children of this community. Also pay for the rent for children of families currently living in motels in Orange County.

Give kids decent food at school. The microwaved greasy cardboard they get is an insult.

Education.

Schools.

INVEST IN EDUCATION.

Education, education, education!

Invest in our public schools!

Give it to the schools.

Abolish the OC BOE. And just funnel more money into public schools.

School mental health outreach, especially with 7-12 age levels.

Libraries, free school lunch.

Return to Taxpayers & Limit Taxes

Give tax $ back to taxpayers. Who are these people who think it is all right to squander our money for pet projects and their pockets? Its bad enough our money is confiscated for many of the useless things that go on. Stop the squandering. It is not “found” money some are entitled to, it is our money.

GIVE IT BACK.

GOP politicians in OC are always whining about OC not getting it’s fair share of tax revenues. What are they gonna do with this?

Give it to me.

Return it to OC taxpayers.

Give it back to the taxpayers.

Give it back to every American in OC. Rebate our money taken from us.

They could lower sales taxes.

Give it back to the taxpayers.

Lower property tax.

Give it back to us.

Wow, California has some of the highest taxes in this country yet politicians here just keep taking MORE and WASTING IT. Why not REBATE that money to TAXPAYERS?

Share the wealth.

Give it back to us.

Give it to the people whose businesses were destroyed by covid

Give me my money back and stop raising taxes. If OC got extra. That means they tax too much.

Give it back or save it. Literally the only two acceptable answers.

Give it back to us?

SAVE! Don’t spend like a lucky gambler. Build up a world class war chest for future unknowns. Remember, Orange County about to hit the bottom not too many years ago? History has a way of repeating. We are very lucky to be in the financial condition we are in.

Give it back.

Give it back!

First, don’t tell the state or democrats because they will try and take it for useless projects. Place half in a “rainy day fund” for when the economy takes a nosedive, then refund the rest to the taxpayers.

Give us back our money. It’s not rocket science.

Economy

Save small businesses.

Help small businesses and landlords/tenants affected by covid.

Hair Salons should be given priority. The forgotten small business who was shut down and was a no fault.

Give it back to small businesses.

Stimulus.

Give it to small businesses forced to shut down.

Homelessness & Housing

Dude we need to invest into getting people off of the streets. Homeless shelters, rehab centers, adult education, support groups, etc…

Affordable housing.

Programs and housing for the homeless. 100%.

Take care of the homeless.

Help the homeless.

Affordable housing.

Mental health and housing.

Maybe do something about the homeless but that makes too much sense.

Poverty and homelessness needs addressing.

Homeless crisis.

Help the homeless.

Resources for the homeless population.

Aid house-less folks/provide affordable housing.

The homeless- definitely. Their resources have been depleted recently.

House the unhoused, duh.

House the homeless.

Community services that help people without housing.

Help the homeless.

Solve homelessness by giving people a safe place to live.

Make more low income apartments.

Affordable permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Invest it in the poorer cities infrastructure and children resources.

House the homeless, make the county greener and improve transit.

Reduce homelessness, increase affordable healthcare options.

Build affordable single family houses that are affordable for single parents.

Build affordable homes and create generational wealth for low income communities.

Fix the homeless crisis they keep ignoring.

A real housing solution for low income, the unhoused and domestic violence survivors.

Build permanent housing for the homeless.

Build affordable townhouse housing that doesn’t cost more than $1,000 per month.

Invest in meaningful, sustainable solutions to the homelessness crisis.

Affordable low income housing.

Affordable housing.

House the unhoused. All of them.

Public showers for the homeless.

Housing.

House the unhoused permanently!!!

Fix the homeless issue!!

Build affordable housing.

Help with the homeless situation in our county.

Affordable housing.

More low income housing.

Social Services & Mental Health

Child care for all.

Build a big county mental hospital and next to it a alcohol/drug rehab for the homeless. How about they get help to function and then we find them jobs and housing? Just saying.

How about funding SSA and HCA with the same robust funding and attention that money is poured into policing?  The Sheriff’s Dept. dominates the budget and that needs to be balanced out.

Pay their employees in Social Service department essential worker pay!!!!

Free therapy for at-risk kids – paying wage for therapist so we get quality professionals.

Provide assistance to the elder and homeless population.

Invest in bettering accessibility for disabled community members.

Anything but give it to police. Use it to empower community health and safety, fund services for all.

Run housing/mental health problems to help homeless neighbors.

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