Escondido, CA

Vector control assessment unchanged

The county’s vector control benefit assessment will remain at the same level as it was during Fiscal Year 2015-16.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who serve as the board of the county’s Vector Control District, voted 4-0 June 22 with Greg Cox in Sacramento to maintain the annual assessment of $5 per equivalent dwelling unit. The vector control assessment is in addition to a service charge, which remains at $3 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.

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 County’s annual review of mosquito, vector, and disease control benefit assessment found that the program is highly efficient and can be maintained at the 2015-16 fiscal year level of $5,” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “This is well below the allowable assessment approved by the voters in 2005.”

(The 2005 authorization was for $8.55 per single family equivalent with allowable annual increases based on the San Diego Area Consumer Price Index but no more than five percent per year. The current allowable amount is $10.82 per equivalent dwelling unit.)

The primary goal of the Vector Control Program, which is administered by the county’s Department of Environmental Health, 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 of 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 interactions 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 reduced the level of effort against other vectors and depleted the Vector Control Program reserves. Hantavirus and plague monitoring were reduced by 75% 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 $8.55 additional assessment, which was approved, raised $9.5 million for the program, including $2.3 million in one-time costs. 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 2011-12 rate to be reduced to $5.86. The rate remained at $5.86 for 2012-13, 2013-14, and 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.

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.

The enhanced program allowed for increased Vector Program Control 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 breeding sites are now monitored and treated. Public education for burrow dusting and plague was expanded. The average response time was reduced from eight to three days and field responses were provided for all rat complaints. The Vector Control program also developed a rat starter kit and implemented on-line reporting of dead birds.

The 2015-16 activities of the Vector Control Program included optimizing an in-house test to detect the chikungunya virus in Aedes mosquitoes which eliminates the need to send out specimens for testing while obtaining results quicker, the development of standard operating procedures and guidance documents, extension of aerial green pool surveillance to a year-round basis, the creation and initiation of a comprehensive media campaign on preventing West Nile Virus and protection from Aedes mosquitoes, expanded monitoring and trapping for invasive mosquito species, and the development and publication of new Aedes mosquito information brochures in both English and Spanish.

The 2016-17 Vector Control Program will have an $8.7 million budget funded by $4.6 million from the benefit assessment, $2.5 million from the service charge, and $1.6 million of trust fund balance. The expected expenditures are $5.1 million for salaries and benefits for permanent staff and seasonal workers, $2.7 million for services and supplies including larvacides, aerial applications, and outreach materials, $0.5 million for external overhead and other incidental costs, and $0.4 million for transportation and equipment expenses.

In 2015-16 the program’s $8.2 million budget was obtained from $4.6 million of benefit assessment collections, $2.0 million of service charge assessments, and $1.6 million from the trust fund balance. That revenue funded $4.4 million of salaries and benefits, $3.0 million for services and supplies, $0.5 million for external overhead and other incidental costs, and $0.3 million for transportation and equipment.

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