Thursday, April 14, 2011
Full fire service will be restored to the city of San Diego, but libraries and recreation centers would see their hours cut in half under the mayor’s budget proposal.
SAN DIEGO Mayor Jerry Sanders is proposing to close San Diego’s nearly $57-million deficit through service cuts and one-time fixes. He said the cuts are hard, but necessary.
“I can’t manufacture the money,” Sanders said. “All I can do is take what I have and prioritize it.”
Sanders’ budget proposal calls for reducing library hours of operation from 36 hours a week to 18. Branches will be open just two days a week and alternating Saturdays. Recreation centers would see their hours cut from 40 to 20 per week. The mayor’s proposal also eliminates 248 city positions, 20 of those would be for sworn police officers. But Sanders pointed out his budget restores fire-engine brownouts, with four engines coming back into service July 1 and the remaining four coming back next January. It also requires San Diego to make its full pension payment.
2012 Proposed Budget
Ending the fire engine brownouts was something the City Council had called upon the mayor to do. The council had listed 23 items it wanted to see Sanders address. Councilman Todd Gloria said many of the suggestions were incorporated. He said the mayor’s budget is responsible, but lamented the proposed cuts to libraries and parks -- which he compared to last year’s fire-service cuts.
“Basically, we are now browning out our library and park systems,” Gloria said. “These are devastating cuts, especially to the low-income and urban neighborhoods that I represent.”
Gloria and Councilmen Kevin Faulconer said they will try to find ways around the library and park cuts when reviewing the mayor’s budget in May. Councilman Carl DeMaio also issued a statement opposing the cuts. That would be welcome news to Katherine Kirkpatrick. She stood outside the Dolores Magdaleno Memorial Recreation Center in Logan Heights where her children often play and where her husband goes to workout. She said the community would suffer if the center’s hours were reduced.
“This neighborhood is not known for its better things,” she said. “There’s lots of gangs and stuff over here, lots. And (the recreation center) kind of keeps them out of trouble.”
Kirkpatrick said if kids keep showing up to find the center closed, eventually they will stop going.
Over at Allied Gardens Benjamin Library Joyce Pritchett worries shutting libraries will hurt San Diego’s kids.
“We understand that money has to be cut from the budget, but to take it away from libraries and programs that benefit kids is really hard for me as a parent,” she said. “We rely on the library, and especially being able to come to story time and come and check out books anytime we want.”
A slight increase in sales and hotel taxes, combined with a lower than expected pension payments, helped to reduce San Diego’s budget deficit. The city’s General Fund for the coming year is about $1.1 billion.
Last fall San Diego voters rejected a sale tax increase that supporters said would have generated more than $100 million a year for the city.
Susan Murphy contributed to this story.