Recently local media has been reporting frightening, one-sided stories about San Diego County’s $78 million county budget shortfall, and the dire consequences we face.

For instance, a SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE article warned that this deficit “could force dramatic cuts in programs aimed at children and low-income families.” The next day, the U-T reported that this reduction “could force cuts in public safety . . . .”

The NORTH COUNTY TIMES reports that “The shortfall could lead to cuts in jobs and programs that serve the poor, children and senior citizens, officials said.” TV stories parroted the same lines, fed to them by county officials.

$78 million is indeed a lot of money. But compared to what? The total county budget is $5.2 billion. Do the math (no media story did). That’s a 1.5% drop in funding.

Big whoop. 99% of businesses in the county would celebrate if in the coming year they lost only a paltry 1.5% of revenue.

Then to compound the error, the U-T runs a chart that purports to show that property tax revenue have not been keeping up with inflation — the old Prop 13 bogeyman. But the chart clearly illustrates that in the last eight years — including the dreary upcoming year — county properties’ assessed value DOUBLED. During that period inflation rose at less than one third that rate. Indeed, in this coming recession year, property values are still projected to go UP 2%.

What gives?

In essence, the county has gone into full combat propaganda mode, distributing tripe masquerading as objective analysis. The obvious goal is to convince the electorate to raise taxes this coming year.

Worse, the gullible press bought the scare tactics. To date, not one media outlet has seriously questioned or analyzed the county’s situation.

County officials tell us that the only choice is either to cut services or raise taxes. But there are other obvious options to consider. For instance:

All 30 year county employees (except sheriffs, but including the County Supervisors) get two pensions which combined provide about 120% of the workers’ highest pay, plus cost of living increases. How many taxpayers can look forward to HALF this size pension? End this disparity.

Privatize the operation of the county libraries, as did Riverside County 10 years ago. Savings on that $38 million expense start at 30%.

Indeed, if a county function is also available from private vendors (the “Yellow Pages” test), put the service out for bid. The county has already successfully instituted some small “managed competition” efforts. Much, much more needs to be done.

The County Supervisors’ lame response to such savings suggestions is that “95% of our budget is mandated by the state.” That’s simply not true. While the state mandates that the county provide certain SERVICES, it does not mandate that the county overpay to DELIVER such services. Nowhere does the state say that the county must pay 120% pensions.

Any County Supervisor or bureaucrat who claims that he or she can’t figure out how to cut 1.5% from the bloated county budget without harming the kids, the seniors and public safety should promptly resign — making way for someone with a backbone and a modicum of common sense.

There is no funding crisis in county government. We DO have a spending crisis — especially considering the huge unfunded county pension obligation. But not a funding crisis.