More than thirty Ramona citizens gathered for coffee with Supervisor Dianne Jacob at the Guy B. Woodward Museum last week. Saying that the recent news reports of a code enforcement action against a Bonita pastor for holding weekly Bible studies in his home was “outrageous” and that she’d “get it ironed out,” Jacob proceeded with her agenda for the morning.
At the top of the list was a report on the economic crisis at the state level, which is going to impact the county. San Diego County gets about 60 percent of its revenues from the state, primarily for Health & Human Services programs. Children and the elderly are going to suffer the worst impacts of state budget mismanagement, said Jacob. At county budget meetings two weeks ago, the supervisors were faced with a significant shortfall and the elimination of more than 700 positions.
The county enjoys a Triple A credit rating, which means that, not only can it borrow money if necessary, it can borrow it at a lower interest rate. Jacob reminded the group that 10 years ago the county was on the brink of bankruptcy. Only through a major fiscal overhaul by going to a zero-based budgeting process was the crisis averted, she said.
Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting starts from a “zero base” and every function within an organization is analyzed for its need and cost, almost as though the organization does not currently exist and is justifying its reason for being. Budgets are then built around what is definitely needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous one.
ZBB allows top-level strategic goals to be implemented into the budgeting process by tying them to specific functional areas of the organization. Through this process 10 years ago, the Board of Supervisors made public safety the priority, outsourced some functions to private industry to save money, and established an adequate reserve account to handle emergencies.
The supervisors are positioning themselves to resist expected attempts from the state to deplete the county coffers. Blasting the state legislators for their budgeting gimmicks and continued spending spree, Jacob urged Ramonans to demand that their state representatives reorder priorities, cut the budget from the top, and make public safety a chief concern. She said it should be unacceptable to let criminals out of jail and cut funding to CalFire. Even though revenues in California have gone up, the continued spending has put California $40 billion dollars in debt.
“It is going to be very, very interesting,” she commented.
In the late 1980s and early ‘90s when the state was in a budget crunch, they came after money from the cities and counties. Now the supervisors are prepared to put the state legislators on the spot in much the same way as they did back then. Legislation proposing cuts to county funding and assessments against county revenues will be posted on the county Web site, and each state legislator’s vote on them will be documented.
Citizens of the county need to be involved, monitor the site and call their representatives to task, said Jacob. Compounding the problem is the fact that the state mandates programs to be carried out by the counties, but then doesn’t provide a funding mechanism.
“The fight is on,” the supervisor said.
On another topic, Jacob reported that she recently did a ride-along with the California Highway Patrol on Highway 67 and experienced first hand a distracted driver who crossed the double yellow line into the lane in which the patrol car was driving.
Inattentiveness and speeding are the major causes of accidents in the Highway 67 corridor, she said. One audience members asked, “How many people killed is too many?”
Mark Baker of the Light of the Lamb Ministry in Ramona said the agencies need to know that these are not just numbers of people killed which is bad enough, but the compounding devastating and permanent affects of small children being deprived of mothers, and families losing a bread-winner.
Using the-squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease theory, Jacob called for the formation of a Ramona citizens group to work with Caltrans and to put pressure on other agencies to effect quick changes. A dozen hands were raised by people in the room volunteering to try to solve the Highway 67 problem. She thanked citizens who had written letters expressing concern and disappointment that center median barriers had not been installed during recent so-called improvements to the highway. Her office forwarded those letters to Caltrans.
Other transportation issues covered during the session included updates on five projects moving forward, which are the Dye Road extension, 13th Street, the southern bypass, San Vicente Road and the Ramona Street extension.
Other business discussed last Thursday morning included the county’s transportation impact fees and their effect on commercial and other economic development in town, and an update on firefighting resources in place for this fire season.