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Property owners to vote on county vector control funds

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There is a side to San Diego that most people who live and work here don't want to think about -- the rats, mosquitoes, flies and fleas that live among dense populations. Most people are not usually faced with these unwanted creatures but it is not because they do not or would not naturally exist in America's Finest City.

The San Diego County Vector Control aids in keeping San Diego properties pest- and disease-free. Due to increased demands on services due to the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus and other factors, ballot measure Proposition 218 is going to be mailed to all property owners in the county of San Diego for a vote to increase fees charged to property owners. The increased fees would fund Vector Control program activity.

What is a vector and what does Vector Control do?

A vector is an animal capable of transmitting disease, discomfort or injury to humans. For example, the mosquito is the vector for West Nile virus. Fleas on rodents are vectors that can transmit plague. Vector Control identifies and monitors these vectors, in addition to those that carry Hantavirus and tick borne diseases that are commonly found in the county. Critical functions of Vector Control are controlling vectors through treatment and management of potential breeding areas and educating the public. Vector Control also responds to citizen complaints regarding mosquitoes, rats and flies.

What has the county done in response to West Nile virus?

In 2003, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the West Nile Virus Strategic Response Plan, which established standards for county departments to meet. A new approach to mosquito control was initiated, dropping larvicides from helicopters at 27 large mosquito-breeding areas.

By treating these locations monthly, mosquito populations decreased by 90 percent. Vector Control initiated a public education campaign that developed and distributed over 80,000 educational brochures and over 300 videos. Due to funding constraints and a nearly 300 percent increase in mosquito complaints, other Vector Control programs suffered. Mosquito complaint response times increased from three to eight days. Rat complaint responses were reduced by providing phone consultations instead of field visits. Also, to meet the increased surveillance demands for West Nile virus, surveillance for Plague, Hantavirus and tick-borne diseases were reduced 70 percent to 80 percent.

How is Vector Control funded?

In 1989, the County Board of Supervisors established a per property service charge for Vector Control. Unspent funds were placed into a secured trust account for the exclusive use of Vector Control each year.

In 1996, when Proposition 218 passed, the service charge was frozen at $3 along the coast, and $2.28 inland, for a typical single-family residence. As operating costs increased, funds from the trust account have been used to cover expenses. Vector Control's response to West Nile virus has accelerated the spending of the trust account by two to three years, which creates a $1.3 million shortfall for fiscal year 2005-06.

What is the county doing to increase funding for Vector Control?

The Board of Supervisors approved a Proposition 218-ballot measure that will allow property owners to vote on funding for Vector Control.

In May, ballots for the Mosquito, Vector and Disease Control Measure will be sent to all property owners in the county. The ballot measure will describe parcel costs and Vector Control services. A public hearing will be held June 22 to hear testimony and conclude the balloting. The measure requires a weighted 50 percent plus one yes vote to pass. Votes are weighted according to the amount of fees the property owner would pay under the proposed assessment. Only property owners would pay these fees, and only property owners will vote.

What does this mean to my property?

An Engineer's Report has been prepared, consistent with Proposition 218, which describes how each property benefits from Vector Control services. Property owners, guests, employees and tenants will benefit by having safe, habitable and valuable properties free from pests and disease. Since the benefit of property is measured by human use, the assessment rates for residential, commercial, industrial and office properties are based on average resident and employee densities.

The baseline for the Engineer's Report is 1.0 benefit units, which is equivalent to a Single Family Residence, and it is given an assessment rate of $8.55. Commercial and industrial properties have a benefit unit of 0.50 per 1/5th of an acre and 0.50 for each acre in excess of 5 acres. Office properties, which have a higher average employee density per acre, have a benefit unit of 1.42 per 1/5th acre for the first 5 acres and 1.42 per acre for any acreage in excess of 5 acres. The following table describes the benefit units and benefit rates for commercial, office, shopping center and industrial properties. To figure out the assessment rate for your property use the chart to determine the number of benefit units for the property, then multiply the benefit units by the benefit rate.

The following table gives some examples of how the rates would apply to properties.

Benefit assessment rates

Example of rates

For further information call (858) 694-2888 or (800) 253-9933 or visit www.sandiegobugs.org.

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