No Backlog; It’s Called Smart Planning!

Ground was broken in November 2011 for a Sheriff's station in Rancho San Diego, just one of many projects the County has under construction.
May 1, 2012 | 3:39pm

Talk about a contradiction. Recent news reports say the County has a backlog of nearly $500 million worth of capital improvement projects. The word backlog leads you to believe the County has a long list of projects that needs to be done but can’t because there’s no funding.

Yet the San Diego County Taxpayers Association announced today the County of San Diego’s Capital Improvement Program is a finalist for its annual Golden Watchdog Award.

In fact, the County of San Diego is quite proud of its capital improvement program. “It is a steady forecast of ongoing requirements for the next five years which are regularly funded and executed with 70 percent cash,” said General Services Director April Heinze. Not many governments can say that.

Here are some facts you should know:

  • Capital projects built or initiated in the past decade are valued at $1.26 billion
  • $872 million (70 percent) funded in cash
  • The ability to use cash avoids approximately $1.46 billion in financing costs over 30 years
  • Prudent fiscal management has earned the County AAA credit ratings
  • Regular replacement of older and less efficient buildings results in less maintenance and energy costs along with improved public access

Besides the tremendous savings in financing costs, what will County taxpayers get for all that? Here’s a look at the improvements that have been built in the last ten years or are currently under construction.

  • 10 Libraries
  • 1 Animal Shelter
  • 1 Juvenile Detention Facility
  • 1 Adult Detention Facility
  • 2 Sheriff Stations
  • 3 Assessor Buildings
  • New Skilled Nursing Facility
  • New Medical Examiner Building
  • County Operations Center Campus Redevelopment
  • 12-acre Waterfront Park
  • 20,000 additional acres of open space/parkland
  • 20 new sports fields
  • 5 new community centers/gymnasiums
  • 2 new teen centers

Today, the Board of Supervisors approved the most recent plan for Fiscal Years 2012 – 2017. The plan details what’s been done, what’s underway and priorities for the future. It shows approximately $572.8 million in currently funded and approved projects, $22.3 million in recently completed projects and approximately $484.3 million in partially funded and unfunded capital projects over the five-year time-frame of the Capital Improvement Needs Assessment also known as CINA.

Now staff will look at how to fund some of those future projects and the best timing for them. For some, a lot will depend on statewide bond acts and state and federal grants.

Who decided what those future projects should be? The County’s Facilities Planning Board and the County’s General Managers review what’s needed, how soon it’s needed and how to pay for it. The process is done with the County’s strategic initiatives and five-year financial forecast in mind. The plan is reviewed every year and taken to the Board of Supervisors for its approval in May.

The highest item on the priority list now is replacing the Sheriff’s regional communications system at an estimated cost of $100 million. Technology support for the core of the current system is ending this year.

The second priority is adding 400 beds to the East Mesa Detention Facility for an estimated cost of $37 million. The new state law, AB 109, requires sentencing some non-violent offenders to County jail rather than state prison and currently the County jails don’t have enough space for the anticipated number of additional offenders. Those are just some of the projects in the works. You can see the CINA plan by visiting the Board agendas page, then choosing May 1, Regular Meeting type.

Backlog? “Not our situation at all,” says Heinze. And the County is proud of it.