Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors controls a $5 billion budget and makes decisions affecting your health and safety. They oversee services that range from prosecuting criminals to feeding the poor. Learn about your supervisor’s priorities and how the group spends your money.
Before I started looking into the role of county government six weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the name of my county supervisor or even the county district in which I live. I suspect I am like a lot of other county residents who are unclear about what their county government -- and the Board of Supervisors -- does. The City of San Diego appears to get most of the media’s attention. That’s surprising when you consider the San Diego County Board of Supervisors controls a much larger annual budget -- $5 billion as opposed to the city’s $2.8 billion -- and it makes decisions that affect the health and safety of all three million county residents.
While the county provides municipal services to unincorporated areas, it is also responsible for the health and welfare of all residents, including the incorporated areas. It decides how many local tax dollars it will spend on programs and services that range from sheltering stray animals to prosecuting criminals. The board makes policy regarding public assistance, child welfare, even illegal immigration. And while the majority of the county’s budget must be spent on programs mandated by the state and federal government, KPBS has learned there is ample room for interpretation and implementation of these programs. After pouring over hundreds of pages of budget documents, a clear pattern of board priorities emerges when it comes to how the county’s $1 billion general fund, its discretionary portion of the budget, is spent. The Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office are among the county’s top priorities. Health and Human Services ranks at the bottom.
A Google map showing the regions that form the districts for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Click to view on Google Maps.
When KPBS began this reporting project six weeks ago, our goal was to create a resource for voters to gain a better understanding of their county government and of who represents them. Two of the Board members, 4th District Supervisor Ron Roberts and 5th District Supervisor Bill Horn, are also up for re-election this year. We begin our coverage with an interactive map illustrating the five county districts along with some basic information about the corresponding supervisors.
I am happy to report that I now know what county district I live in and the name of my county supervisor. More importantly, I also know how she spends my money – and that will be the focus of the KPBS new special, “Who’s Supervising San Diego,” airing Wednesday, June 2 at 8 p.m. on KPBS Television.