Crunching The Numbers: San Diego’s Proposed City Budget
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Aired 4/17/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Erik Bruvold, National University System Institute for Policy Research
Barry Pollard, Coalition of Neighborhood Councils
For the first time since 2003, San Diego City Council members were presented a budget with no deficit and no one-time fixes.
Mayor Jerry Sanders says his 2013 budget marks the end of San Diego's structural deficit.
But the budget proposal is not without its critics. Some city leaders urge caution before celebrating the balanced budget news, while activists say the public should have more say in how the budget is put together.
Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, said the city has a $1 billion deficit in deferred maintenance and infrastructure improvements.
Because of that debt, he said, "we've really shrunken our city."
"We've really let go maintaining our streets, maintaining our storm drains, we offer much fewer services at neighborhood community areas, our police force is down, our firefighting forces have been held frozen for a number of years," he said. "So what we've done is we've balanced the budget, but it's for a much smaller city than what we had 10 years ago."
To restore services and chip away at the infrastructure deficit, "we'd have to spend a lot more money than what the mayor's proposing," he said.
"If we want to look at that smaller city, we're balanced, but if we want to get a city back to where we were a decade ago in terms of services offered to the citizens, we have more work to do to balance that budget," he said.
This argument was also made by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye on KPBS Midday Edition last week.
Bruvold said the city could have a pension deficit - San Diego's is about $2.2 billion - and still have a balanced budget.
"The city's required annual contribution is at a level - and it's a lot of money, we're having to make up for that - but it's at a level we can maintain and address," he said.
Barry Pollard, an activist with the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, told KPBS his group is concerned about the lack of community involvement in the design of the budget.
While department heads, the mayor and maybe City Council are involved in developing a budget, "the vacant seat at that table is the community," Pollard said.
"It's hard to get on a community level to have input," he said. "The people of Oak Park, regarding parks and recreation, know better about the parks in Oak Park."
He said the feedback from the City Council about these concerns has been mixed, and that he has sensed some animosity.
"The only thing we're trying to do is get a little change in the culture as to how the city does their budget," he said.
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