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You Decide What To Change About San Diego’s 2014 Budget

Credit: Vancour / Flickr

Above: The San Diego skyline, March 13, 2011.

What would you change about the city budget? For each item you add, you need to make a cut to keep it balanced!

San Diegans have lots of opinions about how their city spends its money. When KPBS asked its database of sources what they would change about the city's budget, responses included cutting tourism and stadium funding, fixing up roads, adding parks and library hours and increasing police and fire budgets.

Special Feature Play the Budget Game

What would you change about the city budget? Click here to play.

But to maintain a balanced budget, each service added needs to be accompanied by a cut. KPBS' informal survey collected many more suggestions of increased spending than services that could be cut. And no one proposed tax or fee increases to generate more money.

This is a typical San Diego attitude, said UC San Diego political professor Steve Erie.

"San Diegans always want more added services, but when you ask them to pay for it, they say 'not a chance,'" he said.

To illustrate just how much added services cost, and what must be cut to compensate, KPBS has designed a simple budget game. We took suggestions from local leaders and our database of sources on what they'd like to change about the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. We then verified our numbers with budget experts and created a list of budget items to add or cut.

Play the game by clicking the box above. When you're done, create a snapshot of your budget and share it with your friends and KPBS on Facebook and Twitter. Tweet your results to @KPBSNews with the hashtag #fixSDbudget or post them on our Facebook page.

Keep in mind that these items are a snapshot of a very large and complex budget, said Andrea Tevlin, San Diego's independent budget analyst.

"This KPBS budget game is a great way to show our residents how difficult it is to balance the city's budget each year, given all of the competing funding needs of such a large and diverse city," she said. "Some of the choices for cuts may seem relatively simple but when you look behind them, as the IBA Office must do each year, the impacts can be significant."

Additions to the budget are sometimes even harder to pick, Tevlin said.

"Where do you allocate very limited tax dollars? The choices are numerous and varied," she said. "Cities are different from businesses — they do not operate to achieve a bottom line profit. Cities are solely in the business to provide the services that are required by law and those that are most important to our citizens."

Virginia Franco, a retired political activist from San Diego, said she is mostly supportive of the mayor's budget proposal.

"I am glad San Diego citizens finally voted in a progressive mayor," she said. "He mentioned city support for after-school programs, parks, playgrounds and recreation buildings. Let's focus on local infrastructure and less for wealthy parts of the city. The mayor has proposed making San Diego a model city by making it more energy efficient and emphasizing installation of solar panels and other energy efficient projects."

As for what to cut, Franco said, "take dollars from where they have traditionally been sent, to the wealthier among us, which also includes high priced hotel billionaires. After all, the majority of city citizens pay the taxes they are allowed to keep."

Don Wood, a senior policy advisor at the Pacific Energy Policy Center, told KPBS he also would cut money for hotels, as well as the Convention Center and tourism promotion groups.

“I’d rather see the city spending more money taking care of the backlog of maintenance on Balboa Park and spending money on other parks than providing all the taxpayer funded corporate welfare they’re providing to the big hotels and the tourist promotion game,” Wood said.

Science writer and San Diegan Merry Maisel wants more money spent on education, fire, ambulances and libraries.

"A fourth interest of mine is restoration of pension rights of city workers, starting with those that are lowest," she said. "I don’t think any more money should go to the Doug Manchesters or the hardened criminals of the hotelier class.”

And long-time San Diego activist Mel Shapiro wants more city staff for code enforcement.

"I think the people of this city deserve enforcement of the law," he said.

San Diegan Sarah Johnson, who works in international trade finance, wants less money spent on San Diego's sports teams and more money for "roads, sewers, schools, the homeless, vets, parks and infrastructure of all kinds."

"Support home-grown artists, performers, music and art," she said. "Talking about the homeless, we are good at telling them they are not wanted, but we don't tell them where they are wanted."

Create your own spending priorities by playing our game. Just remember to keep the budget balanced.

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