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Vector Control assessment increased

The 2010-11 property tax bills of San Diego County’s property owners will see a slight increase for the vector control benefit assessment.

A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote July 14, with Greg Cox representing the county on California State Association of Counties business, approved an increase from $5.92 to $6.20 per single-family dwelling equivalent. The county supervisors serve as the board of the county’s Vector Control District.

The increase is the first since voters approved the assessment in 2005. The vector control assessment is in addition to a service charge, which remains at $3.00 for the coastal region and $2.28 for the suburban and rural regions. Although the Vector Control Program will spend approximately $500,000 less in 2010-11 than in 2009-10, reduced interest and rollover revenues led to the higher assessment which will increase revenue by approximately $300,000. The program’s rollover revenue, or money not used in the previous year due to cost savings, decreased by approximately $500,000 while lower interest rates reduced the trust fund interest income by approximately $300,000.

The county’s Vector Control Program is administered by the county’s Department of Environmental Health. Its primary goal 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 functions of the Vector Control Program include early detection of public health threats through comprehensive surveillance, protection of public health by controlling vectors and exposure to vectors, and timely responses 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, so vectors include mosquitoes, flies, mites, ticks, rodents, bats, and other small insects and vertebrae. 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 county’s program is funded by a Vector Control District which levies a fee. The original rate when the service charge was adopted in 1989 was $3.80 per property, and in 1995 the service charge assessment was reduced to its current rate while the three regions were established to address differing service levels.

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 in 2006-07 and $5.92 in 2007-08. The assessment remained at $5.92 for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The enhanced program increased program staff, surveillance to detect plague and hantavirus, tick testing, and mosquito traps. Aerial applications were expanded from 27 sites in 2005 to 42 sites in 2007, potential breeding sources were treated monthly, and approximately 2,000 known mosquito breeding sites are now monitored and treated. Public education for burrow dusting and 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 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 plus nine cents per acre, and agricultural property without a house is assessed the base rate per 100 acres.

The $8.2 million in the 2010-11 budget will be derived from $5.6 million of benefit assessment income, $2.4 million of service charge revenue, $0.1 million from the Vector Trust Fund, and $0.1 million from interest income from the trust fund. The 2009-10 budget included income of $0.55 million from the Vector Trust Fund along with $0.44 million of interest income from the trust fund as well as $5.34 million from the benefit assessment and $2.36 million from the service charge.

The 2010-11 spending program covers $4.7 million for salaries and benefits for permanent staff and seasonal workers, $2.6 million for services and supplies including larvicides, aerial applications, and outreach materials, $0.5 million for external overhead and other incidental costs, and $0.4 million for transportation and equipment costs.

The $8.7 million spending plan in the 2009-10 budget covered $4.0 million for salaries and benefits, $2.4 million for services and supplies, $1.4 million for the vector habitat remediation program, $0.6 million for overhead and incidental costs, and $0.3 million for transportation and equipment.

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