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Cuts To Pools, Recreation Centers, Libraries Proposed To Meet Budget Gap

Cuts that would shutter city pools, recreation centers and libraries were proposed today to help close San Diego's projected $72 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

The proposed cuts were outlined in memos from the Parks and Recreation and Library departments.

Jay Goldstone, the city's chief operating officer, sent a memo to city departments last month asking them to identify ways to trim up to 24 percent from their budgets.

In response, the Park and Recreation Department proposed $11.4 million in cuts that would result in the closure of 12 of the city's 13 pools, eliminate after school and teen programs, shutter nine recreation centers, reduce recreation and senior programs and further deteriorate general park maintenance.

Two city libraries would be permanently closed, there would be rolling "brownouts" at the remaining libraries and resources and services would be scaled back. The Library Department has proposed cutting $5.1 million from its budget.

In total, nearly 140 positions in the two departments could be eliminated.

Mayor Jerry Sanders' office has said that in the absence of new revenue, namely from a proposed half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot, the cuts are inevitable.

If it is approved on Nov. 2, Proposition D would raise about $103 million annually for the city.

Sanders has said that if the sales tax measure passes the cuts can be avoided and previous service reductions would be restored.

Councilman Carl DeMaio, who has led the charge against Proposition D, accused Sanders of trying to frighten the public into voting for the tax increase by threatening sizable service reductions.

"Look, Halloween has come early to San Diego and the ghouls and the goblins have come out in the form of these memos," DeMaio said, adding that the proposed cuts are "designed to scare voters on the eve of an election."

DeMaio said he has identified $90 million in annual costs savings through pension reform and restructuring the city's finances.

"That's more than enough to balance the FY 2012 budget," he said.

Last week, Police Chief William Lansdowne detailed his proposal to slash $15.9 from the department's budget. The cuts would result in the loss of 169 sworn officers and dispatchers.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Javier Mainar outlined $7.2 million in proposed cuts to his department. The budget reductions call for the elimination of staffing for a seasonal firefighting helicopter, instituting additional rolling "brownouts" for five additional engine companies, laying off up to 60 firefighters and cutting some lifeguard protection.

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