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Mayor Predicts $94 Million Budget Surplus By 2018

Mayor Jerry Sanders' staff today told the City Council's Budget Committee today that San Diego should see a budget surplus of $4.9 million in the coming fiscal year.

Despite some uncertainties, the mayor's staff projected a surplus up to $94.2 million by fiscal 2018.

Sanders' staff projects moderate growth in sales, property and hotel room tax revenue. That growth, however, could be undone by if the larger economy goes south.

San Diego City Employees Retirement System investments have fared poorly recently, and city contributions --ultimately derived from taxpayers -- may be increased to meet obligations to pensioners. Combined with the initial costs of implementing retirement benefit changes called for in Proposition B -- passed by voters in June -- the city might be faced with a new expense of up to $37 million next year, the report says.

Mark Leonard, the city's financial management director, said the figure is a "worst case'' scenario.

SDCERS is scheduled to determine the amount of the city's contribution in January, following an actuarial analysis.

The report notes that the dissolution of redevelopment agencies by the state could leave the city's general fund on the hook for debt service for the construction of Petco Park and a prior expansion of the convention center. That would be a $14 million hit to the budget, according to the report.

However, the mayor's staff expects the current system, in which revenue still being generated by former redevelopment agency activities cover the debt payments, to continue for those projects.

The budget projections assume no raises for city workers, other those called for in labor contracts, and do not include expanded services, such as longer library or recreation center hours, according to Leonard.

The committee members voted unanimously to forward the report to the full City Council. They also asked staff to include an update at that time on some information technology issues and further details on costs for capital improvements.

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