Regular meetings of the San Benito County (SBC) Board of Supervisors are like comic conventions that only allow unfunny “we’re so poor” jokes. Poor has borne the blame for multiple failures or inabilities to get things done on schedule.
Yes, we have less revenue per capita than the five other regional counties, but the Board should try and remedy that situation rather than just wallow in it. Being poor is not San Benito’s destiny given its location, potential, and the more than $1.1 billion brought in annually by commuters.
The county’s primary revenues came from a dozen programs, but only four were significant in 2016; Taxes (22.2%), State Aid (43.5%), Federal Aid (16.0%), and Charges for Current Services without Admin Fees (10.8%). The distribution varies by county and year, but together those components accounted for between 85% to 95% of primary revenue among the six local counties (see attached pdf for data sources and primary revenue categories).
Although all counties failed to report a few details, especially in the early 2000’s, I believe the state data to be relatively accurate; if not that’s another problem.
SBC had the lowest per capita county revenue among the six counties for 12 of 14 years from 2003 to 2016. In 2009 it barely eked out Fresno for fifth place, but did jump to second place for a single year, 2011, thanks only to the infusion of $5.7 million in tobacco settlement funds.
There were two major shortfalls, tax revenue and federal aid.
For 5 years, 2012 – 2016 inclusive, SBC averaged $271 in per capita tax revenue and $215 in per capita federal aid; $486 total. During the same period Monterey County averaged $382 in per capita tax revenue and $295 in per capita federal aid; $677 total.
The annual per capita difference, $191 over 5-years, equates to $10.6 million or $2.1 million less per year for San Benito County’s average population of 56,000.
Improving the local economy to increase good jobs and property values, along with obtaining a fair share of federal aid, are important functions of the Board of Supervisors. At some point they must be called to account for their failure to deal with this fundamental issue that, in their own words, cripples so many programs.