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Public Hearings On County Spending Start Monday

Crowd at Balboa Park, Jan. 25, 2015.
Milan Kovacevic
Crowd at Balboa Park, Jan. 25, 2015.

Public hearings on San Diego County's proposed $5.35 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year began Monday, with dozens of nonprofit organizations requesting funding from the Board of Supervisors.

The county's community enhancement program will distribute $3.3 million in the upcoming fiscal year to groups that improve the economy in various ways.

Representatives of the organizations seeking funding said they stimulate tourism, create jobs and hold civic and cultural events that lead to a better quality of life for San Diegans. They said the groups also promote the arts, historical foundations, chambers of commerce, museums and other organizations.


"Imagine your life without stories, without books, without someone who took the time to teach you," said Tara Milbrand, director for Reach Out and Read San Diego of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Every day, hundreds of doctors and nurses throughout San Diego County are giving read aloud advice to parents with a brand new book. Parents, in turn, respond to this advice," Milbrand said in her pitch for board support. "They are more likely to read to their children because they received this message from a trusted messenger."

Teresa Contreras of the American Lung Association asked the board to support this year's Lung Force Gala, an event that highlights those who do great work with lung health and clean air in the San Diego community.

"Our organization really helps bridge that gap of clean air quality and lung health," Contreras said. "All of the money that we raise from these events goes to research for lung cancer and lung health, as lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women."

Betsy Knaak, executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association and the Borrego Desert Nature Center, told the board that her organization this fall will be celebrating its 45th anniversary of promoting the region as a destination for visitors for its unique environment.


"Desert tours, farm tours, moonlight walks and lectures about geology and reptiles are just a few of the examples of the more than 150 programs we offer each year," Knaak said. "A recent interview of our dark sky committee members resulted in articles and photographs about Borrego Springs appearing in two Swedish astronomy publications, as well as one in Norway, helping to spread the word worldwide about Borrego's starry, night sky."

Sandy Purdon, executive director of the Big Baby Boom annual July 4th fireworks display, thanked the board for its support for the event over the past 16 years.

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"This event keeps breaking records each year. The attendance is in excess of a half a million people that personally view this show on San Diego Bay," Purdon said. "The regional economic impact of our show in 2012 was $10.6 million, but now with live TV and worldwide live internet viewing, we are certainly exceeding that figure."

Dozens of nonprofit representatives lined up in the board chamber throughout the day to make a two-minute pitch as to why their organization was worthy of a grant.

"We're going to be celebrating our 10th anniversary of our peace-building conference, which is part of our mission and goal to help build more tolerance in the world," said Teresa Love, spokesperson for American Youth Hostels. "We're also celebrating our diamond jubilee, 60th anniversary of the Christmas bicycle trip, 60 years of touring both residents and visitors to the county alike through the mountains, beaches and desert of San Diego and we hope that you will continue to support us."

The hearing on the Community Enhancement Program is scheduled to continue Tuesday, with public testimony scheduled to begin Wednesday on the overall spending plan.

The budget envisions spending 1.2 percent less money than the current fiscal year because of a shift to the state of responsibilities for in-home supportive services. The county plans to add the equivalent of 344.5 staff years in 2016-17, bringing total employment to 17,380 staff years — quantified in that manner to account for part-time positions. Most of the new jobs will be in public safety and the Health and Human Services Agency.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to conduct its budget deliberations June 28. Upon adoption, the county spending plan would take effect July 1.