Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/07/2011 06:13:57 PM PST

Colleagues of San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt are accusing him of holding the county’s budget hostage because he is not getting the additional funding for his district that he wants.

It was the second time Mitzelfelt refused to approve mid-year budget adjustments due to his ire over funding for his district, the largest of the county’s five districts at 15,600 square miles.

During a heated exchange during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisors Janice Rutherford and board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales accused Mitzelfelt of being irresponsible for not approving a mid-year budget adjustment that would allow various county departments to move forward with major projects and pay off some of its debts.

Mitzelfelt agreed to approve budget items that were time sensitive due to public health and safety issues, including a $684,772 justice grant to be distributed to 16 cities in the county for public safety services. He agreed to approve other budget adjustments that were also time sensitive including new ballot sorting equipment at the Reigstrar of Voters office and funding for preschool services and public works projects.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales called Mitzelfelt’s piecemeal approach to the budget unconventional, and refused to break apart the item.

“This is the second time that we are delaying this particular portion of the budget adjustment, and I can’t condone this,” Gonzales said. “This is not the way we do business. We cannot leverage what we want against other items if we don’t get our way.”

But Mitzelfelt wouldn’t budge. He said his office budget has been cut by $2.5 million since he’s been in office, and he is down to two two field representatives, one of them part-time. Historically, he said the augmentation funds have been set aside for his district due to its vast territory, which stretches to the Arizona and Nevada state lines.

He said losing the augmentation funds could force him to let another one of his field representatives go and threaten his ability to pay for his district office in Hesperia.

Gonzales and Rutherford essentially accused Mitzelfelt of using the county’s budget as a bargaining chip to get the funding he wants for his district. Gonzales repeatedly told Mitzelfelt that the mid-year budget adjustments before the board on Tuesday were not germaine to his concerns. Mitzelfelt disagreed.

In June, Mitzelfelt proposed a formula for distributing the augmentation funds to the five supervisorial districts based on population in each district’s unincorporated areas and the total square miles of each district. He said the board was in agreement with his proposal then, but has since changed its tune.

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