<i> Deja Vu</i> All Over Again as County Unveils Its Bad News Budget Plan : Squeeze: Like the city, the county proposes cutbacks, including eliminating funds for a much-needed jail.


San Diego County officials unveiled a blueprint Wednesday for next year’s $1.6-billion budget that freezes existing services while not funding projects that officials acknowledge are needed, such as the East Mesa jail.

The county’s proposal came the day after the city of San Diego made public its plans for a $1.2-billion budget that would make deep cuts in funding for the arts, recreation and libraries.

The county’s proposed budget, which will be debated in June, represents an increase of about 4.5% over the current one. But it ignores about $250 million in needs for which county departments had requested money.

“The 1990-1991 fiscal year will not be a bright period for county government or for many of the nearly 500 programs we operate,” said Norman W. Hickey, the county’s chief administrative officer, at a press conference in the County Administration Center.


“We are not trying to cheat anybody. It’s true that it’s a big budget, but it’s also true that we have 2.5 million people in this county,” said Leon L. Williams, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, who also attended the press conference. “If we want services, we have to have money.”

Hickey and Williams said the county does not have the $10.2 million to support the new jail. Of the entire budget, only $38 million--or 2.3%--is discretionary, meaning supervisors have control of it, Hickey said.

“You can’t open a new facility if you don’t have enough money to operate the ones you have,” said Supervisor Brian Bilbray.

Hickey acknowledged that the jail is only one of several seriously needed projects that will not receive funding. The others include:

* Maintaining the $1.3-million vaccine program that offers inoculations to children and provides second measles shots to children in kindergarten.

* Reopening the Rancho del Campo probation camp.

* Increasing law enforcement in the unincorporated area.

* Funding the county’s allocation to the Hazardous Materials Incident Response Team.

The financial squeeze in the county would be lessened if San Diego wins an appeal against a judge’s ruling that a 1988 sales tax increase for jail needs is invalid because it was approved by less than two-thirds of county voters, Hickey said. The case is scheduled to be heard in the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal on June 5.

If the county wins, it would free $130 million for courts and jails that the county government has collected but has been unable to spend.

Other litigation would also garner funds for the county, which spends about $1.30 per resident each day for services--a rate that is one of the lowest in the state, Hickey said. San Diego County, which has gained about 80,000 new residents each year for the past five years, is one of the fastest-growing counties. And officials acknowledge that they are unable to keep pace with the growing need for basic services.

The county is suing the state for a fairer distribution of property tax and state revenues. That lawsuit, which has been bogged down by almost four years of litigation, is scheduled for December in San Diego Superior Court. Should the county win, about $80 million in funds could be released, said David E. Janssen, assistant chief administrative officer for the county.

The county is also suing the state for mental health, drug, alcohol and indigent medical care funds. This lawsuit, which could bring more than $17 million to the county--will be heard within the next 60 days, Janssen said.

Under the proposed county 1990-1991 fiscal budget, there are some--though few--increases.

The district attorney is slated to receive almost $4 million more next year to maintain existing programs and provide funding for drug-related programs. Jail security will be beefed up with $631,000 for 15 security projects. Health Services will receive $6.7 million for AIDS treatment and prevention.

The Sheriff’s Department is to receive an $2.5 million more to pay for 85 staff slots for food service and medical care. Informed of this allocation, Bilbray, who had not seen the proposed budget, grumbled: “We had people escaping out of jails, but we had lap-top computers.”

Hickey and others agree that the programs not slated to receive funding will probably raise more eyebrows than those given increases.

And, in light of several inmate riots and jail escapes, the East Mesa jail is sure to be the most controversial.

“Our county has grossly over-crowded jail facilities--we are in desperate need,” said Presiding Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell. “It has reached a point where it impairs the criminal justice system to act effectively.”