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San Diego’s Independent Budget Analyst Weighs In On Budget Proposal

Audio

Aired 12/8/09

San Diego City Council’s independent budget analyst, or IBA, has looked at the mayor’s proposed budget cuts, and will present her recommendations to the council on Tuesday.

San Diego City Council’s independent budget analyst, or IBA, has looked at the mayor’s proposed budget cuts, and will present her recommendations to the council on Tuesday.

Andrea Tevlin notes that if the mayor’s plan is put in place, the city will have fewer city employees per thousand residents than at any time in the last 40 years.

She says she supports the mayor’s overall plan but has some concerns.

Tevlin says eliminating more than 80 civilian positions in the police department could increase police response times and lower the city’s income from parking citations. She suggests keeping some of the civilian staff and eliminating more positions for sworn officers that are currently vacant.

She notes 400,000 people visited Torrey Pines beach in the off-season last year and there were 25 rescues. Eliminating life guard services there, as the mayor is proposing, increases the risk of injury or death, she says.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s plan does not include closing any swimming pools, something the city council has refused to approve in the past.

One example of a cut that should save money without affecting core services is the proposal to change trash truck driver schedules from five days a week to four, ten hour days.

But not all of the proposed cuts will necessarily save money.

For example, one of the mayor’s budget cutting strategies is to keep city vehicles longer -- seven years rather than five, before swapping them out for new ones. Tevlin says this could result in higher maintenance costs.

Tevlin notes an effective way to measure city service is not yet in place. She says the council should monitor the effect of all the cuts carefully and get citizen surveys.

According to Tevlin’s analysis, if the city council cut their own budgets by 8 percent as the mayor has asked other departments to do, each councilperson would lose almost $50,000 from their office budget. So far, none of the councilmembers has come forward with those kinds of cuts. Nor, says Tevlin in her report, has the mayor’s office.

When it comes to building the city’s financial reserves, Tevlin agrees with the mayor’s proposal to delay adding to the reserves until city finances look healthier. However, she notes the reserve fund will be depleted to back-fill this year’s budget deficit, and that will cause an unacceptable drop in reserves.

Looking ahead, Tevlin says property taxes could still fall more than expected next year, and the city won't know what its December sales tax totals are until about March.

Her calculations suggest the deficit for 2012 will be more than $100 million, even with all of the cuts the mayor is currently proposing.

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