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April 2011

In SAN DIEGO COUNTY REVENUES AND RESERVES: A comparative analysis of California’s largest counties, CPI reveals that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has accumulated $2.2 billion in unspent reserves,while restricting safety net services during a recession.

The county’s end-of-year fund balances total almost 60% of expenditures, compared to an average of 42% among other major California counties, the study found. The report shows that San Diego County further starves its own budget by bringing in unusually low amounts of all types of revenue.

“San Diego County has not prioritized the essential health and social services it is obligated to provide,” said CPI Executive Director Clare Crawford. “Good fiscal stewardship is not just a matter of putting money in the bank. It requires wise spending to meet your responsibilities and prevent greater future costs.”

“This county has been saving for a rainy day during a monsoon,” she said.

The report, San Diego County Revenues and Reserves, compares budget and spending data for the 12 largest counties in California. San Diego has long trailed other counties in providing services, for instance by enrolling less than half of those eligible for Medi-Cal.

Spending more of its revenue on local services would help create jobs and boost the local economy, as well as helping people struggling in the recession, said study author Vladimir Kogan. “The County Board’s decision to instead build up excessive reserves is a trade-off with real consequences.”