RANCHO SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego region is being buffeted by a financial "triple-whammy" of declining tax revenue, the financial meltdown and mishandling of the state budget, but the county government is in a better position than other jurisdictions to handle the problems, a county supervisor said Wednesday night.
In her 2009 State of the County address at Cuyamaca College, Board President Dianne Jacob said sales and property tax revenue has declined by $90 million this fiscal year.
The decline in the stock market sliced $2.5 billion off the value of the county's pension fund for retired employees, Jacob said.
"Even if the market bounces back, the required contribution by the county is expected to triple over the next five years," Jacob said. "That's money out of the general fund that could be going to services."
Regarding the state budget, Jacob said supervisors would travel to Sacramento Thursday to lobby the Legislature to not balance the budget by cutting off aid to foster families, the poor and at-risk children.
Jacob said state leaders are reportedly close to a budget deal that will reduce payments to local governments.
San Diego County is among the counties preparing a lawsuit to "keep the state from shirking its obligations," Jacob said.
"Let me be clear: what lies ahead is treacherous," Jacob said. "The good news is county government is in a far better position than most to navigate rough waters."
Jacob cited the county's balanced budget, ample reserve fund and a recent AAA bond rating by Standard & Poor's.
Jacob said public safety would remain the county government's top priority and also turned her sight toward environmental concerns.
"Soon, at my request, our board will consider mandatory water-wise and fire-resistant landscaping for all new development in the unincorporated area -- residential and commercial," Jacob said. "I will ask cities in the region to follow our lead."
Jacob also said the county was working on making solar energy more financially attractive to homeowners.
Mack Jenkins, the director of the Probation Department, said Jacob did "an outstanding job of being candid" on challenges faced by the county government.
"We are facing some cuts (in his department)," Jenkins said. "We are in the process of prioritizing our programs between mandatory and discretionary programs so we can stay focused on our core missions."
Probation's 1,400 employees supervise 20,000 adult offenders and 5,000 juveniles. Jenkins said he won't know how big of a cut his department will take until after provisions of the state budget settlement become clear.
Jacob said no matter how big the state cuts, there will be a smaller county government offering less services with fewer employees.
Copyright 2009, City News Service.