Vector control assessment cut

 

Last updated 8/3/2007 at Noon



The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 July 24 to reduce the vector and disease control benefit assessment base rate from $6.36 to $5.92.

“Once again we’re reducing a fee,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. “It is always appropriate to only recover the fees that are incurred and nothing more.”

The primary goal of the county’s vector control program, which is administered by the county’s Department of Environmental Health, is to prevent vectors from reaching public nuisance or disease thresholds by managing vector habitat while protecting habitat values for vector predators and other beneficial species. The vector control program’s functions include early detection of public health threats through comprehensive surveillance, protection of public health by controlling vectors and exposure to vectors, and appropriate and timely response to customer service requests.


The California Health and Safety Code defines a vector as any animal capable of transmitting an agent of human disease or producing human discomfort or injury. This includes rodents, bats, and other small vertebrae along with insects such as mosquitoes, flies, mites, and ticks. The county’s vector control program identifies vector species, recommends techniques for their prevention and control, and anticipates and minimizes any new interactions between vectors and humans.

The vector control program is funded through a vector control district which levies a benefit service charge. The original rate when the service charge was adopted in 1989 was $3.80 per property, and in 1995 the assessment was reduced. Three regions were established to address differing service levels, and from 1995 to 2005 the base rates defined as a single-family home were $3.00 per property for the coastal region and $2.28 per property for the suburban and rural regions.


In 2003 the county adopted its West Nile Virus Strategic Response Plan which won awards from both health and government organizations but reduced the level of effort against other vectors and depleted the vector control program’s reserves. Hantavirus and plague monitoring was reduced by 75 percent, and in 2004 the county’s first Hantavirus case was discovered in Campo.

Rather than seeking additional funding only to restore previous levels, a larger assessment to fund an enhanced program was proposed. In 2005 the county’s property owners voted to approve an additional assessment of $8.55, which raised $9.5 million for the program. That amount included $2.3 million of one-time costs which were eliminated in subsequent years and thus allowed for a reduced assessment to $6.36 for Fiscal Year 2006-07 and $5.92 for 2007-08.


The assessment covers all properties in San Diego County, including those in incorporated cities and those owned by government agencies. A single-family home is assessed the base rate, agricultural property with a house is assessed the base rate plus nine cents per acre, and agricultural property without a house is assessed the base rate per 100 acres.

The enhanced program increased program staff, surveillance for the detection of plague and Hantavirus, tick testing, and mosquito traps. Aerial applications were expanded from 27 sites in 2005 to 39 in 2006 and 42 in 2007, potential breeding source were treated monthly, and more than 1,800 known mosquito breeding sites are now monitored and treated. Public education and burrow dusting for plague were also expanded. The average response time for complaints was reduced from eight days to three and field responses were provided for all rat complaints. The vector control program also developed a rat control starter kit and implemented on-line reporting of dead birds.


The vector control’s $8 million budget for Fiscal Year 2007-08 includes $500,000 from the balance in the vector trust fund as well as $5.3 million from the benefit assessment and $2.2 million from the service charge. The planned expenditures include $3.4 million in salaries and benefits for 29 permanent staff years and 12 seasonal positions, $1.9 million for application, outreach, and information technology services and supplies, $2.0 million for the vector habitat remediation program, $400,000 for external overheads and other incidental costs, and $300,000 for transportation and equipment costs.

 

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