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San Diego Budget Earns High Marks From Independent Analyst

Aired 5/5/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Kyra Greene, Ph.D. is a research and policy analyst for the Center on Policy Initiatives, which runs the Community Budget Alliance.

Avital Aboody, is a community organizer who works with various groups including the Greater Logan Heights Community Partnership

Aired 5/5/14 on KPBS News.

The City Council will begin its review of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed fiscal 2015 budget this morning.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year earned mostly high marks from the independent budget analyst at a hearing Monday. The meeting was the first of a series this week that will review the budget.


Budget Hearing Calendar

The city of San Diego is holding budget review committee meetings from May 5 to May 9 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the 12th floor council chambersat 202 C St. The meetings are open to the public. Here are details on what will be reviewed each day.

Special Feature Play the Budget Game

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

Andrea Tevlin, the city's independent budget analyst, told the City Council the budget has a lot of good things going for it, including keeping libraries open for more hours than they've been in a decade and bringing police staffing to 2,000 in fiscal 2015 — higher than it's been in at least four years.

The budget proposal suggests adding five hours a week at the Central Library and four hours a week at branch libraries. It proposes increasing police academies from 34 to 43 recruits.

But Tevlin also said the budget, which takes effect July 1, is lacking in some areas. The biggest issue is that it uses too much money from the general fund to repair roads and other infrastructure, she said. The city has another budget specifically devoted to those capital improvements that is outside the general fund budget.

"You should note and you're very aware that every general fund dollar that goes to maintenance repair for capital is one less dollar for critical city services that rely almost entirely on the general fund," Tevlin told the council.

In her written report, which was sent out last week, Tevlin noted that the city's spending still severely lags on roads and other infrastructure, as well as capital projects such as buildings and parks.

"The most significant outstanding financial matter facing the city, which bears no easy solution, continues to be the city’s deferred capital and infrastructure funding requirements, currently believed to be in excess of $2.0 billion," the report says.

Faulconer's budget is devoting $22 million more this year to fix roads and sidewalks and install streetlights. But the report says that's far less than what the city needs.

Tevlin also told the council members that the budget proposal at least partially funds 13 of the 17 projects they asked for in their spending priority memos passed in January. The four projects left out completely are:

  • A computer-aided dispatch program for police.
  • An urban forestry program to better care for the city's trees.
  • A program manager to run the city's proposed climate action plan.
  • Staff to monitor the city's living wage ordinance.

The Police Department says it doesn't need a computer-aided dispatch program in fiscal 2015, Tevlin noted, and it could be paid for using an alternative method in the future.

Faulconer's predictions for how much money the city will bring in during fiscal years 2016 to 2019 are also too optimistic, because they don't include future costs of opening new fire stations or library branches, Tevlin said.

The mayor will have the chance to address these concerns and any issues raised by the City Council in his revised budget, which must be released by May 20.

The public can attend any of the City Council hearings this week to comment on the budget. A special evening hearing of the budget will also be held Monday, May 19, at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers at 202 C St.

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