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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

Vector Control assessment increased


Last updated 7/30/2018 at 3:22pm

The county's vector control benefit assessment will be increased.

The annual assessment per equivalent dwelling unit which was $7.07 for Fiscal Year 2017-18 will be $7.93 for 2018-19. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who serve as the board of the county's Vector Control District, voted 5-0, June 20 to approve the increase.

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. Both the vector control benefit and the service charge are part of a landowner's property tax bill.

The Vector Control Program is administered by the county's Department of Environmental Health. The program's primary goal is to prevent vectors from reaching public nuisance or disease thresholds by managing vector habitat and preserving habitat values for vector predators and other beneficial species.

The Vector Control Program functions include early detection of public health threats through comprehensive surveillance, protection or public health by controlling vectors or exposure to vectors, and timely responses to customer service complaints or other 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. Vectors include mosquitoes, flies, gnats, mites, ticks, rodents, bats, and other small insects and vertebrae.

Gophers, which can damage yards but do not directly threaten human health or comfort, are not considered vectors. The Vector Control Program identifies vector species, recommends techniques for their prevention and control, and anticipates and minimizes any new interaction between vectors and humans.

The service charge was adopted in 1989 and was originally $3.80 per property. In 1995 that 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 which reduced the level of effort against other vectors and depleted the Vector Control Program reserves. Hantavirus and plague monitoring were 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 the previous levels of activity, a larger assessment for an enhanced program was proposed and subsequently approved by the county's landowning voters in 2005. The voters approved a maximum rate of $8.55 per single-family equivalent with allowable annual increases based on the San Diego Area Consumer Price Index but no more than 5 percent per year (for 2018-19 the maximum authorized assessment is $11.36 per single-family equivalent). The $8.55 additional assessment raised $9.5 million for the program, including $2.3 million in one-time costs.

The assessment covers all properties in San Diego County, including those in the county's 18 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.

Factors which determine the annual rate include expenditure needs, rollover revenue (money not used in the previous year due to cost savings), and trust fund income. The rate was reduced to $6.36 for 2006-07 and to $5.92 for the following three years. A decrease in rollover revenue and lower interest rates, which reduced trust fund income, forced an increase to $6.20 for 2010-11, but a reduction in seasonal staff due to favorable climate conditions allowed the rate to be lowered to $5.86 for 2011-12.

The $5.86 rate was retained through 2014-15, and the development of efficiency processes along with the completion of specific phases of programs allowed for a reduction to $5.00 for 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The Aedes mosquito transmits the Zika, denque and chikungunya viruses. The first Aedes mosquito detected in San Diego County was found in October 2014, and the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species have both been found in San Diego County.

Aedes mosquitoes were detected in 16 of the county's ZIP codes in 2015 and in 35 ZIP codes in 2016. The county had 57 confirmed or suspected travel-related cases of mosquito-borne illness between October 2014 and December 2015 and 213 such cases during calendar year 2016. Ten of those 2016 investigations required use of adult mosquito control.

The presence of the Aedes mosquito led to a 41.4 percent vector control assessment increase to $7.07 per equivalent dwelling unit for 2017-18. If Aedes mosquitoes or larvae are found in an area near a confirmed case, the Vector Control Program conducts chemical control for adult mosquitoes and larvae control if necessary while providing outreach and education to occupants within a 150-yard radius.

Educational materials are now available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Arabic and Mandarin, and bilingual teams explain the response protocol and answer any public questions at least 48 hours before treatment as well as during treatment.

Mosquitoes which can transmit West Nile Virus prefer large stagnant bodies of water such as creeks, rivers and pools for breeding, but Aedes mosquitoes are found in urban areas and prefer to breed in very small sources of water such as plant saucers which may be found in homes or yards.

The presence of the Aedes mosquito increased to 48 of San Diego County's ZIP codes in 2017, and nearly 200 cases of suspected Aedes-transmitted illness were investigated by the Vector Control Program last year. The continued presence of West Nile Virus along with the Aedes mosquito activity has increased the Vector Control Program workload by nearly 30 percent over the past four years; the 5,385 complaints or other requests for service during fiscal year 2014-15 increased to more than 8,000 for fiscal year 2017-18, although those complaints or requests for service can also involve rat or other non- mosquito activity.

The assessment increase from $7.07 to $7.93 per single-family equivalent will allow for one additional staff position. The $11.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 will provide $6.8 million for permanent and seasonal staff salaries and benefits; $3.3 million for services and supplies including larvacide, aerial applications and outreach materials; $0.6 million for transportation and equipment costs, including maintenance and fuel; and $0.5 million for external overhead and other incidental costs.

The 2017-18 budget funded $6.2 million for salaries and benefits, $3.1 million for services and supplies, $1.0 million for transportation and equipment expenses, and $0.6 million for external overhead and other incidental costs.

The benefit assessment will provide $7.4 million of the 2018-19 revenue, the service charge will fund $2.5 million, available trust fund balance will account for $1.2 million, and interest income or contracts to perform work for other departments and districts will allow for $0.1 million of revenue.

The 2017-18 revenue consisted of $6.5 million from benefit assessment collections, $2.5 million from the service charge, $1.8 million from the fund balance, and $0.1 million from interest income and contracts.


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