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S.D. Budget Proposal Not As Draconian As Feared

The city of San Diego won’t lose any sworn police officers or close any libraries under the mayor’s suggested budget proposal for the next 18 months. However, the plan relies on improved revenues in 2011 to avoid deeper cuts later.

The plan on the table has nowhere near the 27 percent cuts the mayor had asked city departments to prepare for.

Budget committee chair Tony Young says it’s a proposal the council can work with.

“Mayor Sanders’ proposed budget reductions are painful,” Young said. “However, they are not a fatal blow to the city workers and services, as they could have been.”

Police, for example, were asked to come up with cuts worth $73 million, but the budget now on the table cuts just under $12 million.

Police Chief Bill Lansdowne says he’ll lose some canine units and equestrian patrols, but he won’t lose any more sworn officers from a force of almost 2,000.

“Right now I’m down 231 officers,” Lansdowne said. “I have enough officers to manage the calls for service we are currently having. Where we are going to see some changes is in the ability to do some investigative work.”

The mayor’s proposal would also cut eight fire engine companies, reducing the number of engines available, but not closing down any fire stations.

Last year libraries narrowly escaped being closed. This year, Library Director Deborah Barrow says the plan is to pair libraries, so if one is closed down, another one in the community remains open, six days a week.

“Pairing is an option that allows us to continue services in all of the communities,” Barrow said. “And at the same time, spread the cuts throughout our library system.”

She said this will make it easier to power libraries up again when the economy improves.

The mayor’s plan would change trash schedules, by scheduling trash truck drivers for four ten hour days. However trash service would not be reduced.

The 18 month budget includes more than $70 million in one time savings, like postponing installing sprinklers at city hall and raising revenues with higher parking fees. If the economy does not pick up, those measures won’t help close the gap in 2011.

Council President Ben Hueso called the plan “workable.” The city council will consider possible changes at their meetings in December.

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