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City Council Asks For More Funding For Lifeguards

With revenues coming in higher than forecast, several City Council members today pushed for more funding for San Diego's lifeguards.

A San Diego lifeguard working near the cliffs at Torrey Pines.
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Above: A San Diego lifeguard working near the cliffs at Torrey Pines.

Officials with the lifeguard service asked for $300,000 to fund three fill-in positions and $68,000 to pay for a wellness program, during a special meeting in which revisions to Mayor Jerry Sanders' proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year were presented.

Ed Harris, head of the lifeguards union, told council members that the relief positions are necessary because employees are piling up overtime when co-workers are sick, injured or on vacation.

The wellness program would prevent injuries, and a similar program for firefighters has proven beneficial, he said.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents beach areas in La Jolla, said she doesn't understand why the wellness program isn't funded.

"It seems like every year it gets pushed back to another year,'' Lightner said.

Councilman David Alvarez backed the lifeguard request for the fill-in jobs. He said he wants to see justification for the other 100 positions that were added to the general fund budget ahead of them.

Jay Goldstone, the city's chief operating officer, told the council that "there were a lot of (funding) requests from multiple departments that were not funded.'' That included the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, he said.

According to city staff, the projected surplus at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 is projected to be $17.8 million, or $1.3 million higher than forecast earlier this year. Some of the new-found money was redirected to libraries and recreation centers to keep them open longer, but that was offset by $4.7 million in personnel costs because more people than expected retired.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on adopting the budget on June 11.

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