Tools and Resources: San Diego County, CA

The following GFOA Best Practices were the tools San Diego County used to strategically align assets and liabilities to mitigate both short and long term risks and needs. 

Best Practices Achieving a Structually Balanced Budget

  • The County experienced double digit assessed value growth from the housing boom prior to the recession understanding these growth levels were unsustainable, the resultant recurring growth in revenue was leveraged and used to address one-time liabilities instead of implementing new ongoing programs or expanding existing programs
  • The Long-term Obligations and Financial Management Policy was codified through the adoption of an ordinance to ensure a structurally balanced budget by prohibiting the use of non-recurring revenues to support ongoing expenditures

Best Practices Sustainable Pension Benefit Tiers

  • New retirement tiers were established, the group of retirees eligible for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) was closed, and a combination of recurring and nonrecurring revenues were used to prepay Pension Obligation Bonds (POB) debt and make voluntary contributions to increase assets of the retirement system. Recurring and nonrecurring revenues were also used to avoid the issuance of new debt by cash financing capital infrastructure. 

Best Practices Multi-Year Capital Planning

  • San Diego County faced significant capital improvement needs but avoided $1 billion in financing costs by paying cash for $830 million of capital over a ten year period. This financing strategy along with the County’s five-year Capital Improvement Needs Assessment (CINA) were key components of the plan.

Best Practices Adopting Financial Policies

  • In an effort to depoliticize and further strengthen its policies and alignment with the strategic financial management approach, the County initiated a comprehensive review of all financial policies in 2015; internally this initiative was referred to by the organization as the "Good Governance Package."
  • In addition to reviewing and updating, some policies were later codified into ordinance, such as the 2017 Fund Balance and Reserve Ordinance

Best Practice Fund Balance Guidelines for the General Fund

  • In addition to strengthening the General Fund Balance and Reserve policy through adoption of an ordinance, the policy clarified fund balance targets for the general fund.
  • In an effort to communicate the practicality of the strategy, the County leveraged the “GFOA Best Practice Fund Balance Guidelines for the General Fund” to educate stakeholders on how the policy targets aligned with recommended industry standards.

Best Practice Debt Management 

  • A key management practice that was codified states any excess revenue from assessed valuations is now repurposed into the following year's budget to reduce pension liabilities, accelerate repayment of outstanding obligations, or to avoid issuance of new debt by cash funding capital projects.

Best Practices Alternative Service Delivery: Shared Services and Best Practices Examining the Benefits of Managed Competition

  • To mitigate short term risks caused by the Great Recession the County conducted a comprehensive review of every county program with a goal of identifying programs eligible to be “Consolidated, Outsourced, Re-engineered/Generate Revenue, or Eliminate” (CORE). The initiative quickly became an essential process of future budget development cycles resulting in various innovations such as the elimination of outdated internal policy restrictions which limited the use of certain discretionary revenues, identification of opportunities to reduce service levels while limiting service delivery impacts and opportunities to eliminate or reduce non-mandated discretionary services.

Awards for Excellence: San Diego County, CA  

About San Diego County, CA

For more information, please visit San Diego County's Website