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County releases proposed $5.06B budget

The public received a glimpse Friday of the county's proposed budget, which calls for a 1.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year's spending.

At $5.06 billion, it would be the county's first budget to surpass $5 billion since fiscal year 2009-10 — though the 2013-14 budget came close at $4.98 billion.

Due for presentation to the county Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting, the spending plan is expected to be the subject of a set of public hearings starting June 9.

The board has to approve its operational plan, which includes the upcoming year's budget and a more generalized plan for a second year -- each summer by June 30 -- to allow spending beyond that date.

By program group, the budget proposes appropriations of about $1.9 billion to health and human services, nearly $1.63 billion to public safety, $417.5 million to land use and environment spending, $383.6 million to finance and general government spending, $324 million for community services and $322.2 million for other finance.

The smallest group in terms of proposed spending is the capital improvements program, written in for $81.7 million.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county's chief administrative officer and the budget's principal architect, described the upcoming year as one in which the county "will embark on an effort to make all services world-class."

"We're now over four years into recovery from the great recession," she wrote. "Despite a slow-paced recovery, unemployment now is declining, the region's housing market has stabilized, county revenues are on the mend and the overall outlook for our local economy is positive."

While the county has produced a string of balanced budgets, spokesman Michael Workman said continuing that goal has required more modest assumptions regarding revenue the past few years.

Improved conditions with some revenue has brought a sense of relief in preparing this year's budget, Workman said, though he added the county still exercised some caution to maintain the balance for which it is known.

"Going in last year, we were really worried that the economy was still really fragile, so we kind of planned for the worst and hoped for the best," Workman said, noting that the worst fears of cuts from state funds didn't materialize, and that the state looks to be "in better shape" now.

State revenue accounts for 28.6 percent of the proposed budget's funding, totaling more than $1.44 billion and making for the plan's largest revenue source.

Property tax and other taxes combine to contribute the next largest share, at 19.9 percent, while the other major local contributor is the 18.7 percent share covered by a combination of service charges, fees and fines.

Federal money accounts for 16.1 percent of projected revenue. Remaining revenue is sourced from things such as operating transfers and other financing sources, other government revenue and a fund balance.

The capital program's proposed budget represents a net increase of 39.7 percent, $23.2 million, over fiscal year 2013-14.

The new Sherriff's crime lab, still in planning but estimated to cost a total of $104.8 million, is proposed to receive $50 million.

Other capital programs include the county's Multiple Species Conservation Program, proposed for $10 million and the Borrego Springs Community Library replacement, budgeted for its full cost of $9.7 million.

Another $9.9 million is proposed for paying debt service and other costs related to improving the Edgemoor nursing facility's property.

Smaller expenditures would include upgrades to Guajome Regional Park's electrical, water and sewer systems for $1.5 million, and $600,000 for the installation of a grid-tied solar energy system at Sweetwater Regional Park.

The public safety group -- which includes the Sheriff's Department, emergency services and the San Diego County Fire Authority, as well as the medical examiner, public defender and child support services -- is proposed 5.6 percent more funding than in the current fiscal year.

According to the budget document, the increase relates in part to higher costs, which were the result of negotiated labor agreements and higher retirement contributions.

Other factors mentioned were the reclassification of penalty assessment funds, increased law enforcement staffing in the Sheriff's Department, decreased staffing in the probation Department and planned use of one-time resources.

Health and human services' proposed $1.9 billion represents a 4.8 percent decrease from the current year's budget, attributed to the transition of the Low Income Health program to the expanded Medi-Cal program.

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County of San Diego

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County of San Diego Executive(s):

Greg Cox

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Ron Roberts

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