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County Budget Goes Up as Services Go Down

May 14, 1987|H.G. REZA | Times Staff Writer

Chief Administrative Officer Norman Hickey unveiled a $1.2-billion San Diego County budget Wednesday for 1987-88 and, despite the record spending request, expressed concern about the county's ability to meet the residents' needs.

The proposed budget reflects a 12.3% increase, or $127 million, over the current one, and Hickey said it will be a struggle to balance spending with revenues, as required by law. However, the challenge could have been more demanding, said Hickey, had he not lopped off $114 million more that had been requested by the county's departments.

Hickey said that $99 million of the $127 million increase in spending will go to specific programs that are mandated by the state and federal governments.

County officials said that, if the budget as proposed is approved by the Board of Supervisors, the county will spend an average of $1.40 per day per resident for services. Revenue for law enforcement--the Sheriff's Department, district attorney, courts, etc.--would increase significantly under the proposal.

Sheriff's Budget Hiked

Spending for law enforcement would be increased 16% to about $227 million. The budget for Sheriff John Duffy alone would rise about $12 million to $86.4 million. About 19.6% of the spending proposals for 1987-88, or 43 cents of every general purpose dollar, would go to law enforcement. General purpose revenues are derived mainly from property taxes and fees charged by the county.

Health and social services will again account for the biggest portion of the budget. Hickey said that 54.4% of the county's spending, about $630 million, would go to health and social services. This represents an increase of almost 20%, or slightly more than $100 million, over the current spending for these departments.

Manuel Lopez, county director of financial management, called the spending proposal a "status quo budget." The county will not be "able to provide services as the population goes up," said Lopez.

Lopez's comment was echoed by Board of Supervisors Chairman Brian Bilbray, who appeared with Lopez and Hickey at a press conference where the new budget was unveiled.

"We're providing the same level of service. But as the population increases, the level of services per capita will go down," Bilbray said.

Hickey said that providing adequate services to the county continues to be a challenge every year because of the annual influx of new residents. According to Hickey, the county's population increased by 75,000 last year, enough people to form a new city the size of El Cajon.

'Passed the Buck'

The struggle to provide adequate services is made all the more difficult by services that are mandated by the state and federal governments. But not enough funds are made available to the county for these services by Sacramento or Washington, Bilbray said.

"They've passed the buck without passing the buck," he said.

About 92% of the programs funded in the county budget are mandated by the state and federal governments, said Hickey, while only 8% are discretionary. But of the $1.2-billion spending proposal, only $397 million is raised from county revenues, said Lopez.

Public hearings on the propsed budget will begin June 8.

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