SUMMARY OF "OUTLOOK AND ISSUES" REPORT
PRESENTED TO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ON FEBRUARY 25, 1997
OUTLOOK AND ISSUES
The planning horizon for this Strategic Vision is the year 2020, or about twenty years into the future. Reflecting backward an equal amount of time, who could have foreseen the impact of personal computers and cellular phones, the epidemic of violent crime by children, a one-third decline in local property values, the tragedy of AIDS, or the profound impact Proposition 13 would have on local government? The world and our community are impacted daily by technological, economic, and societal changes in ways which even the most perceptive can fail to comprehend. In appreciation of that reality, this strategic plan makes minimal use of long-term demographic projections and finite needs estimates, relying instead on basic trends and facts that are currently observable.
Current Demand Is Outpacing the County's Capacity to Provide Critical Services
The County's population has increased by 110,000 residents over the past six years, making it one of the fastest growing California counties. This growth has placed increased service loads on case-driven departments providing mandated services such as criminal justice, health and social welfare, and has stimulated increased public demand for high priority community services such as Sheriff's patrol. Discretionary revenues (primarily property, sales, and motor vehicle in lieu taxes) needed to fund local programs and services have fallen by almost 20 percent during the same period.
The existing infrastructure which the County is responsible to maintain, including roads, public buildings, and facilities, is showing signs of age and overuse, and a large deferred maintenance liability is accruing. Funding for preventative maintenance and replacement is often an early casualty in budget cutting, and dedicated revenue streams, such as gasoline tax for County-maintained roads, are often inadequate. For example, while the optimum resurfacing cycle for maintained roads is 130 miles per year, Riverside County can afford to accomplish only about ten percent of that task.
At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the demand for new infrastructure to keep pace with growth. A steadily growing population requires additional, more decentralized public service outlets. A full range of public buildings, parks, streets, flood control facilities, and utilities also must be financed. Traditional funding vehicles for such infrastructure, such as bond measures, assessment districts, community facilities districts, and developer contributions and exactions, have experienced extreme stress or failure in recent years.
Socio-Economic Changes Are Impacting Local Government
There appears to be a growing gap between the rich and poor and between skilled and unskilled workers. Wage stagnation, "downsizing", and a shift to service industries create a higher proportion of moderate- to low-income workers and "working poor". The latter are prime users of County health and welfare services. If a diminishment of the middle class were to occur, class tensions could escalate along with hopelessness and frustration. Additionally, the community "safety net" could be weakened, because the middle class is the primary source of tax dollars, private contributions to community support organizations, and volunteerism.
Fundamental Changes In Governance Are Underway
Several tax limitation initiatives over the past two decades, culminating in Proposition 218, which was approved in 1996, have progressively limited the ability of State and local government to raise funds, hampering the ability of your Board of Supervisors to provide services that are mandated on the County by State and Federal governments or demanded by County residents.
The impact on County finance has been further compounded by the recent recession, during which property values dropped by one-third in many areas, and by a State-ordered shift in property taxes to schools, which cost the County $80 million annually.
Accordingly, a series of tough budget decisions have been made to bring spending in line with the new revenue ceiling. For the past several years, the County organization has worked to eliminate unnecessary programs and frills, trim duplicative functions, outsource work, and find ways to "live on a shoestring". This effort to find better, faster, and less costly ways of doing things has had tangible results, as the County has maintained basic services despite the overall reduction in discretionary funding. While this continues to be a high priority, the ability of some departments to provide basic services has now reached a critical point, where further reductions would produce unacceptable levels of public service. Additionally, the long-term impacts of reduced funding for general government is impacting the ability of government to maintain a systems of checks and balances.
A key element of the public agenda for restructuring government is the Federal, State and local effort to overhaul the Federal welfare system. This long-needed reform is now being implemented and is expected to have significant ramifications for a variety of interrelated health and human services programs provided by the County.
Another change in the way government now does business is reflected in the trend toward deregulation at both the State and local levels. The more conservative political philosophy of the 1990's, coupled with a need to jumpstart the ailing local economy, is focusing efforts on relaxing governmental constraints and lowering burdensome costs to industry. Board-directed initiatives have included reducing fees, "fast-tracking" applications for commercial and industrial development, eliminating red-tape, and assuming more of a partnership role with desired major industries.
The County has a long history of utilizing private sector manpower for temporary, peak demand, public works and specialty professional services. The recent economic downturn has not only threatened the viability of several County departments and functions, but it has also stimulated interest by the private sector in competing for public service work. Management continues to review privatization opportunities which are consistent with statutes governing general law counties.
Finally, rural and unincorporated residents are becoming more vocal in expressing concerns about unwanted urbanization and annexation to cities. New community designations have been adopted by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in response to pleas to protect lifestyle choices in certain rural areas. These restrictions upset the plans of some cities, who feel constrained in their obligations to plan for orderly growth and provide municipal services to those in their spheres of influence. More conflict is anticipated as these communities-in-transition strive to assert control of their destinies.
County Population Is Steadily Increasing
The County's population is projected to increase by roughly 1.4 million residents by the year 2020 with a demographic shift toward a more culturally diverse society. The average growth rate in the 1990s has been 3 percent, about half the rate experienced in the 1980s. Most demographers are now producing growth forecasts at or near this reduced level. Some areas of the County will grow faster than others... current high growth areas include the entire I-15 corridor, with 5-year average annual growth rates ranging from 4.6 percent in Corona to 9.3 percent in Temecula.
Accommodating the projected new population by 2020 will require the construction of 450,000 new housing units within both cities and unincorporated areas. Another 100,000 units of housing may be required to replace aging housing stock, relieve overcrowding , and replace units lost to accident or disaster.
County departments will be hard pressed to deliver State and Federally-mandated services to meet growth-driven service demand. The unemployed, the underemployed, the low income aging population, and those individuals categorized as the "working poor" will continue to exist in significant numbers and will continue to be served by County programs. It is yet to be seen whether welfare reform will ultimately put able-bodied people back into the labor force, and whether the economy will have jobs for these people that will sustain them without government assistance, or whether the net result will be an increase in homelessness, social unrest and indigent cost to the County.
Despite decreasing crime rates, various "Get Tough on Crime" initiatives (such as Three Strikes, the one-strike rape law and stronger domestic violence enforcement and prosecution) have resulted in more cases in the system and the upgrading of other cases to prosecution as major crimes. This work load threatens the basic structure of our criminal justice system.
Quality Of Life Will Be Increasingly Challenged By Urbanization
Projected population growth and urbanization pose a threat and challenge to unique and valuable County physical assets including species habitat, open space, and agriculture. Much of the prime developable land in the County is already committed to urbanization through Specific Plans and approved tract maps. Land development to accommodate residential, commercial and industrial growth, and the regional infrastructure to support such growth, may consume open space and infringe on wildlife habitat.
Violent crime is a serious concern of County residents. Crime appears to becoming more random and violent, and perpetrators are getting younger. Street gangs have made strong inroads into this County in recent years. Sixty percent of crime is committed by eight percent of the male population ages 13 to 25. This age group is expected to grow by over 200,000 individuals in the coming twenty years and poses significant challenges to public institutions dealing with crime prevention, public protection, and criminal justice.
Balancing the need to accommodate growth with the responsibility to protect the public from the negative aspects of urbanization will continue to be a challenge. Poorly planned urbanization may increase traffic congestion, air and water pollution, neighborhood blight, social conflict, and crime.
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