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Fee Increases Revisited to Solve San Diego’s Financial Woes


Mayor Jerry Sanders has promised not to raise taxes, but the city of San Diego's budget shortfalls are projected to grow bigger every year. The city council's budget committee talked Wednesday about ways of raising revenue in the future. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

So far Mayor Jerry Sanders has managed to keep the city's financial head above water by business reorganization, cutting staff, borrowing and selling city land. But the council's independent budget analyst, Andrea Tevelin says the mayor's five year budget plan shows a massive $100 million deficit, starting in 2009, even after all the changes.

The mayor has rejected fee increases for fiscal 2008, but as we look out to the future, raising fees or revenues in some fashion is going to become a more and more important discussion.

The committee considered 12 possible fee increases, including a first responder fee of about $300 for calling the city's paramedics. Charging business improvement districts $11,000 each would bring in about $200,000 a year. Spokesmen for several small business improvement districts complained they are already paying to empty trash bins that the city's trash services leave to overflow.

City councilwoman Donna Frye said she doesn't want to have to sit through hours of hearings from people objecting to fee increases that are too small to solve the city's problems anyway. Instead she suggested shifting about $16 million worth of annual debt payments for the ballpark and the convention center over to the city's booming downtown redevelopment agency. She also made a suggestion that's proved highly unpopular in the past. 

Frye: If you're going to talk about fees and taxes -- and lets call them what they are -- I think the public needs to be provided with a very serious discussion about a sales tax increase -- a half-cent sales tax increase -- which by my rough calculations would generate a $100 million on an annual basis.

Observers says Fry's support of a half-cent sales tax may have cost her the mayoral election in 2005. But she asked city staff to analyze it as a possibility for the ballot in 2008. Alison St John, KPBS News.

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