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San Diego County, California

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San Diego County is one of 58 counties in California. Both the county seat and largest city of San Diego County is the city of San Diego, California. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, San Diego County had a population of 3,095,313 people, making San Diego County the second-most-populous county in California.[1]


Budgets are approved in the form of two year operational plans, originally proposed by the Chief Administrative Officer to the Board of Supervisors. The operational plan identifies successes under the previous year’s budget, and lays out objectives for the next two years. After review, the first year of the operational plan is adopted as a Line-Item Budget. The second year is adopted for planning purposes.[2]

FY 2012-2013 budget appropriations total $4,513,500,000, a decline of $1.8 million from FY 2011-2012.[3] Despite these cuts, little has changed with regards to services, which actually saw a modest funding increase.

The county is, by most counts, financially healthy. It maintains nearly $2.2 million in reserves, part of which covers an emergency fund. These funds have also been used on various capital improvement projects, paid for free of borrowed dollars.[4]


San Diego County reports having received $120.9 million in federal stimulus funds, through a total of 42 awards granted.[5] All awards are listed on a county-run, stimulus dedicated website. Awards are reported by the county under the categories Housing & Communities, Health & Human Services, Infrastructure & Technology, Public Safety, Energy & Environment, and Training.

Elected Officials

San Diego County is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors. Board members are elected to four-year terms, with elections rotating every two years.[6]

There are four other elected positions apart from the Board of Supervisors.[7]

Administrative Officials

Directives from the Board of Supervisors are implemented by the Chief Administrative Office. The Chief Administrative Officer is appointed by the Board of Supervisors, and is then responsible for the appointment of all other administrative officials. The Chief Administrative Office management team can be viewed here.


Main article" California public pensions

County employees are eligible to join a pension fund run by the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association. SDCERA is qualified as a 401(a) Incentive Retirement Deferred Compensation Plan.[8] A report showed that nearly one fourth of the $8 billion fund is in investments whose risk is beyond the policy board’s limits.[9]

Increasing pension and labor costs play a role in San Diego residents’ rising water bills, officials with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association said in a report. Taxpayers Association officials said that water agencies also have to keep rates artificially high to pay for labor costs and the rising costs of pension and retiree health care benefits, which at some agencies either doubled or tripled during that period. Retail water agencies are different from many other public agencies because a smaller percentage budgets go to labor costs — the bulk of the costs come from purchasing water. A survey by The Watchdog last year showed that labor comprises about 25 percent of district costs, on average, whereas in other agencies such as cities and schools, labor costs make up upwards of 85 percent of the budget.[10]

Municipal Plan Funding Levels

None of the pension plans of San Diego County’s largest cities have funding levels reaching the 80 percent minimum pension experts commonly recommend. The city of San Marcos has funding levels of 51 percent, according to documents reviewed by UT San Diego. The city of Oceanside had the highest funding levels at 69 percent. According to the review the 11 cities in the county owe $3.3 billion more than is in the funds.[11]

City 2010 Liability 2010 Funded
San Marcos $82,290,473 51.8 percent
Encinitas $61,709,285 59.2 percent
Chula Vista $355,519,797 59.5 percent
El Cajon $223,289,069 60.4 percent
Escondido $273,248,044 60.8 percent
National City $128,928,110 61.6 percent
Carlsbad $231,919,508 62.8 percent
La Mesa $74,655,256 64.5 percent
Vista $93,083,730 65.3 percent
San Diego $6,527,223,751 67.1 percent
Oceanside $332,133,576 69.2 percent


Main article: California government sector lobbying

Lobbying contracts are not reported on county websites.

Federal lobbying

San Diego County spent $300,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2010.[13] As of June, 2011, San Diego County has spent $70,000 lobbying the federal government in 2011.

State lobbying

For 2007 and 2008, San Diego County spent a total of $3,012,628 on lobbying the California legislature.[14]

Subsidiary Amount
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority $247,919
San Diego County Sheriff's Department $301,915
San Diego County Water Authority $515,322
San Diego County $1,947,472

Public employee salaries

Main article: San Diego County employee salaries

In 2009, the county had 1,019 employees who were making over $100,000 annually. This was an increase of 28% since 2007. In the same time period, the number of county employees making less than $50,000 fell 15.5%.[15]

Top managers in the county are able to cash out 50% of their unused sick days, or apply 100% of their unused sick days to their service time. One report showed that San Diego County paid more than $2.5 million to 278 employees in unused sick days since 2007. $686,238.93 was paid to just 49 employees for unused sick days in 2010.[16]

Palomar Pomerado Hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael Covert earned $1 million in 2009.[17]

Below is a chart of the highest paid workers in the county.[18]

Compensation Name & Position
$274,498 Walt Ekard, chief administrative officer
$233,771 Brian White, CEO, county retirement system
$230,443 John Sansone, county counsel
$228,858 Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney
$227,240 Marshall Lewis, mental health clinic director

Transparency and Public Records

In June 2011, it was reported that SDCERA spent at lease $101,000 in legal fees fighting public records requests to release the names of county retirees receiving more than $100,000 in pension funds.[19]


San Diego County collects a property tax, calculated as (assessed value) x (tax rates that are applied to your bill) + (special assessments). Tax rates are determined annually according to[20]

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of California county websites
Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials N
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts P
Lobbying N
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Public records P
Local taxes Y
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County websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

The good

  • The current budget is published.[21]
  • The names and contact information for all board of supervisor members is available.[22]
  • Board of supervisor meeting agendas and minutes are available.[23][24]
  • Audits are published.[25]
  • Information on building permits and zoning is available.[26]
  • Bids, open contract solicitations, and noticies of intent to award contracts are published.[27]
  • The county maintains an online, searchable database of public recordds.[28]
  • Information on taxes is provided.[29]

The bad

  • No current contracts are posted.
  • There is no information on administrative officials, except for an organization chart.
  • There is no information on lobbying.
  • No information is provided on how to request public records using the California Public Records Act.

External links