Wednesday, February 29, 2012
A top city official lashed out today at skepticism of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders' recent announcement that the structural budget deficit has been solved.
Last week, the mayor said increasing revenues would leave the city with a $16.5 million surplus at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, and the situation would continue into the future.
While many welcomed the news, others pointed out that the announcement was limited to the general fund and did not address the city's pension and retiree health liabilities, or backlog of needed infrastructure repairs.
"In my long career in the public sector, that includes working for many cities and a few counties, I've never been anywhere where news like this has been met with such disdain," Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said at today's meeting of the City Council's Budget Committee.
"Perhaps the city's past troubles have so tainted the public against us that it will take several positive announcements and several years before people can begin believing in good news, honest news, in San Diego."
Goldstone said the announcement simply means that current revenues are sufficient to pay for current services, on an ongoing basis. The mayor's budget proposals for the next fiscal year will not require service cuts or gimmicks to close any shortfalls, he said.
"What the news does not mean, and has never been suggested to mean, is that the city's current service levels (are) where people would like them to be," Goldstone said. "It does not mean that we can blindly restore services because while we're seeing positive economic data, we do not have enough data to predict revised revenue growth rates and sustainable trends."
He acknowledged that the city was far behind in repairing roads and other infrastructure, and payouts to retirees would remain large.
The good news was also tempered by rapidly climbing fuel costs and the unknown costs of losing redevelopment, according to committee members.
"We have to be mindful, even as we look at this positive news, that we don't go on a spending spree," committee Chairman Todd Gloria said.
In a report issued Tuesday, the city's Independent Budget Analyst largely concurred with the mayor's financial projects while saying revenue could come in even higher than now expected.