Vector control assessment remains unchanged from 2012-13 level

The County’s vector control benefit assessment will remain at the same level as it was in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who serve as the board of the county’s Vector Control District, voted 5-0 July 31 to maintain the annual assessment of $5.86 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.

“Glad to control costs,” said Jack Miller, the director of the county’s Department of Environmental Health (DEH).

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 interest income. Both the vector control benefit and the service charge are part of a landowner’s property tax bill.

DEH administers the Vector Control Program, whose primary goal 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 functions of the Vector Control Program include early detection of public health threats through comprehensive surveillance, protection of public health by controlling vectors and exposure to vectors, and timely responses to customer service complaints.

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 insets and vertebrae (but not gophers, which can damage yards but do not directly threaten human health or comfort).

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 county’s program is funded by a Vector Control District which levies a benefit assessment. The original rate when the service charge was adopted in 1989 was $3.80 per property, and in 1995 the service charge assessment was reduce 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’s reserves. Hantavirus and plague monitoring were reduced by 75 percent, and in 2004 the county’s first hantavirus case was discovered in Campo.

Rather than seeking additional funding only to restore previous levels of activity, a larger assessment to fund an enhanced program was proposed and subsequently approved by the county’s landowning voters. The $8.55 additional assessment approved in 2005 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 seasonable staff due to favorable climate conditions allowed the 2011-12 rate to be reduced to $5.86.

The assessment covers all properties in San Diego County, including those in 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 increased Vector Control Program 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 were 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 Vector Control Program’s 2012-13 activities included developing an Asian Tiger Mosquito Strategic Response Plan, implementing a West Nile Virus outreach program, social media and smart phone outreach, integrated pest management, and joining a statewide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.

In December 2012, the county supervisors adopted an eye gnat ordinance whose provisions included giving DEH authority over eye gnats as vectors and making eye gnat intervention eligible for Vector Control Program funding.

The 2013-14 budget will be $8.5 million and will be derived from $5.7 million of benefit assessment revenue, $2.7 million of service charge payments, and $0.5 million from the trust fund balance. The Vector Control District will spend $4.4 million on salaries and benefits for permanent staff and seasonal workers, $3.3 million on services and supplies including larvacides, aerial applications, and outreach materials, $0.5 million for external overhead and other incidental costs, and $0.3 million for transportation and equipment expenses.

The $7.9 million budget for 2012-13 utilized $5.3 million of benefit assessment income, $2.4 million of service charge revenue, and $0.2 million of trust fund balance. The 2012-13 spending program covered $4.7 million for salaries and benefits, $2.6 million for services and supplies, $0.4 million for overhead and incidentals, and $0.3 million for transportation and equipment.

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