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Proposed 2008-09 county budget respects adverse conditions, MSCP, firefighting included in funding


Last updated 5/29/2008 at Noon

An expected decline in state funding and in property tax and sales tax revenue will likely have an adverse impact on the County of San Diego after the passage of its 2008-09 budget. County staff and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors can’t predict the short-term economic future or the specific level of funding the state legislature will approve, so the county’s response was to prepare a budget anticipating such concerns.

“The budget before you today is a measured response to economic conditions,” said Don Steuer, the county’s Chief Financial Officer, during a May 13 Board of Supervisors presentation on the proposed $5.15 billion 2008-09 budget.

“We face an old and all too familiar nemesis,” county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said of the economic uncertainties and state deficit. “Our proposed operational plan reflects that reality.”

Most of the cuts in state funding are expected to occur in the county’s Health and Human Services Group and its Public Safety Group, and county staff prepared a conservative budget with contingency plans and strategies. “I just hope the public understands what we will be doing,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “It’s structurally balanced. We’re only spending one-time money on one-time expenditures.”

While the county’s philosophy of spending one-time revenues for one-time projects rather than for ongoing programs is considered a factor in the county’s fiscal soundness, it also creates fluctuations in the county’s capital improvement program or other programs for which the one-time funds are designated. Sources of one-time revenue include Transportation Impact Fee revenue, grants, legal settlements, Indian gaming compact payments, and special state or Federal appropriations.

“In some program areas, increased funding is available,” said Chandra Waller, the county’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the county’s Land Use and Environment Group, which includes the Department of Public Works, the Department of Planning and Land Use, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Another factor causing fluctuations in the capital improvement budget involves past appropriations. A capital budget only includes money appropriated for that fiscal year and does not include projects already under way for which money had previously been authorized.

The design and construction costs for the Fallbrook and Ramona libraries will exceed $21 million, but the money which had not previously been appropriated was approved March 25 and that funding will be carried over from the current fiscal year. The 2008-09 capital budget includes $3.2 million for the new Lincoln Acres library.

“The challenge for our library department will be to protect those precious gains we have achieved,” said Mikel Haas, the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Community Services Group which includes the County Library department.

The 2008-09 proposed budget also includes $10 million for Multiple Species Conservation Program acquisitions. The 2007-08 budget included $5 million for MSCP acquisition.

The budget is also likely to include funding for Phase I of the regional county fire agency reorganization and for the lease of three firefighting aircraft.

The $5.15 billion amount of the county’s proposed budget is an 8.8 percent increase over the $4.73 billion 2007-08 budget. The proposed capital budget for 2008-09 is $404.2 million while the initial 2008-09 budget proposal includes $816 million in reserves and $128.3 million in debt repayment.

“We are in a strong position to weather the storm,” Steuer said.

“It reflects our commitment to continually doing more with less,” Ekard said. “We are prepared to meet whatever challenges come our way.”

The budget hearings begin June 9 with Community Enhancement funding requests, and hearings on the rest of the budget begin June 10. The supervisors will begin deliberations on the budget June 24.


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