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San Diego Parks Get More Money Under Mayor’s Revised Budget

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announces revisions to his 2015 budget at Wightman Street Neighborhood Park, May 20, 2014.

Aired 5/20/14 on KPBS News.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday he has $12 million more to spend in the next fiscal year than he originally thought, and he wants the money to go to parks and other neighborhood services.

Special Feature San Diego's Next Budget

Everything you need to follow the news and understand what's in the city of San Diego's fiscal 2015 budget.

The revised budget proposal San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer released Tuesday has $12 million in additional revenue than he anticipated, and he wants to spend the money on parks and other neighborhood services.

Faulconer's first $3 billion budget proposal, released in April, already added money for public safety and neighborhood services.

But when the mayor released his "May Revise'' budget proposal on Tuesday, he said the city has an additional $12 million to spend in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

That extra money comes from revised predictions about how much money the city will make in fiscal 2015, including a $7.2 million increase in projected property tax revenue and $1.4 million extra in hotel room taxes, according to the mayor's office.

It also includes more spending reductions, most notably from a lawsuit that's holding up the city's deferred capital bond. That delay cuts $1.7 million in debt service from the bond.

Faulconer said he wants to spend $1 million of the new revenue on a park in City Heights. He made the announcement about his revised budget proposal from a vacant lot on Wightman Street where the park will be built.

"When I was sworn in as mayor, I said that when I see an empty lot, we don't see blight, we see opportunity," Faulconer said. "And today, I'm proud to announce that opportunity is being realized right here in City Heights and across the city of San Diego."

City Heights community activists have been working to turn the lot into a park for more than a decade, according to the mayor's office. The park will have basketball hoops, a scooter and tricycle trail, playground equipment, picnic tables and barbecues, and a lit walkway.

Other parks are also getting a spending boost in the revised budget proposal, Faulconer said. Silver Wing Neighborhood Park in Otay Mesa and Tierrasanta Community Park will get lighting improvements, while a 1,300 foot paved trail in Black Mountain Ranch, Trail for All People, will be built.

The revised budget also includes a year’s worth of funding, $250,000, for the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. The mayor's initial budget proposal was criticized by some for its elimination of this funding.

City Councilman David Alvarez, who lost to Faulconer in this year's special mayoral election, called out Faulconer's initial budget proposal for not spending enough on neighborhood parks, "especially in underserved communities." But even after Faulconer's revised budget boosted this spending, Alvarez still said he was not happy.

"I am disappointed the neighborhoods I represent are still not receiving their fair share of citywide project funding," Alvarez said in a statement. "While the Mayor’s revision to his budget proposal takes a few small steps in the right direction, much more needs to be done. There is a shovel-ready 15+ acre community park project in Ocean View Hills: the only thing standing in the way is the Mayor’s approval of the needed funding. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues and the Mayor to get this project built."

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald joined Faulconer at his announcement of the May revision. She represents City Heights, where the Wightman Street park would be built, and said she is very happy for the addition to the community.

"This new park is a tangible product of the efforts and dedication community leaders in City Heights have long been advocating for,” she said.

Faulconer's proposed revisions also add a program manager who would be in charge of a climate change action plan for the city. The City Council had asked for the position in its spending priority memos, but it wasn't included in Faulconer's initial spending plan.

Faulconer proposes spending $200,000 to hire a sustainability program manager who would oversee the climate change program and other conservation causes, including a big reduction in the use of plastic shopping bags.

Other new expenditures proposed by the mayor include streetlight installation, extra support for the San Diego police helicopter, equipment for the fire department and 25 more beds for the San Diego Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team.

The revision also includes some shifting of funds to create a department that focuses on performance and analytics, consolidate the currently decentralized communications staff and strengthen a fund that pays out legal settlements.

The original spending plan released last month already increases the hours that libraries are open, hikes the amount of officers in police academies, boosts the number of fire academies and provides extra money for infrastructure projects.

The mayor's office is scheduled to formally present the proposed changes at a special City Council meeting Wednesday morning. The council is scheduled to approve the budget next month.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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