Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The City Council had their first chance to discuss Mayor Bob Filner's budget proposal today, and reviews were mixed.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner released his first budget proposal today. He aims to increase spending for neighborhood services and public safety.
What would you change about the city budget? Would you add services like more police officers or library hours, or would you make cuts to programs like public art or free bus passes? Tell us what you think San Diego should be spending its money on.
Council President Todd Gloria told KPBS Midday Edition the budget suggests about $15 million in cuts and $15 million in added services.
It uses about $5 million in ongoing funding and $34 million in one-time funding, including $21 million from a lawsuit settlement with SDG&E, he said. Gloria said it would be better to use ongoing funding.
"That’s the better way to do that to make sure we don’t go back to where we were in the last decade, with all the unfortunate things that were associated, Enron by the Sea, etc.," he said.
Councilman Kevin Faulconer said in a statement that the budget "repeats mistakes of the past." On Midday Edition he said one of those mistakes is delaying an infrastructure bond used to repair roads.
"The condition of our roads needs a lot of help," he said. "This council has worked together to keep that pressure on to do that. This budget that came out skips, delays, a whole year, moving forward on that.”
Another part of the budget plans, Filner's proposal for a five-year labor agreement with city employees, received tentative verbal support from the City Council today.
The discussion of such an agreement, which Filner has advocated since the mayoral campaign last year, came during a presentation of his $2.75 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
No vote was taken. The agreement has been discussed by council members in closed session.
Vince Hall, the mayor's chief of staff, told council members that such a deal would save the general fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and libraries, $20 million in each of the next two fiscal years and around $141 million over five years.
He expressed frustration with opponents of a labor agreement on the City Council by saying "politics'' was preventing the city and its six unions from striking a deal.
Gloria said approving an agreement would be the right thing to do.
"It makes financial sense for the city, it shows respect to our employees, it allows us some budgetary relief that allows us to do more for our communities,'' Gloria said. "It's a no-brainer.''
Councilwoman Sherri Lightner also came out strongly for the deal.
Its major provision would be a five-year period in which employees can only figure base compensation into their eventual retirement payouts, part of a pension reform initiative passed by San Diego voters last June.
Faulconer said he wanted any labor agreement to avoid "increases that are unsustainable that the city cannot afford.'' He did not specify whether he meant pay increases.
He was backed by Councilman Scott Sherman, who said the city should strive for a deal but that "the devil is in the details.''
The overall budget, unveiled publicly by the mayor on Monday, is 0.1 percent smaller than the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The $1.2 billion general fund is set to increase 3.1 percent. The mayor's proposal would add the equivalent of 38 jobs and largely avoids spending cuts.
A proposed $1.4 million reduction in the budget for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, the mayor's political rival, was not discussed at the meeting.
Some initial criticism about the use of one-time revenues to cover a budget shortfall was also muted. Hall said approval of a labor agreement would solve the problem.
The city's Independent Budget Analyst is set to comb through the spending plan and release its findings by the end of this month. A department-by-department review by the council's Budget Committee is scheduled for the week of May 6-10.
A vote on adoption by the City Council could be taken on June 10.