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San Diego Structural Budget Deficit Ends, Mayor Says

— San Diego's structural budget deficit has ended and residents will receive the immediate benefit of longer hours at libraries and recreation centers, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced today.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce the city's decades-long structural budget deficit is history," Sanders said at a news conference.

Recent projections show the city ending this fiscal year on June 30 at about $16.5 million in the black, Sanders said. About half will go toward opening libraries an extra four hours per week to 40 hours, keeping recreation centers operating five more hours weekly, adding 15 more cadets to the next police academy and funding a new fire station alert system.

He called them "targeted restorations" of services. The remainder of the found money will be put into reserves.

Revenue, particularly sales and hotel room taxes, is projected to climb $21.9 million over budget, off-setting some higher-than-predicted expenses.

The larger income levels are expected to last for several years, resulting in the end of the structural budget deficit, the mayor said.

Sanders said he wanted to restore certain services early for residents, who he credited for displaying "resilience in lean times."

The mayor did not say if some of the higher revenue will wind up in the paychecks of city employees. Municipal workers took a 6 percent salary cut a few years ago and the reduction remains in place.

City officials are negotiating with municipal labor groups, so it wasn't an issue he could discuss, Sanders said. He said the budget picture for next year remained tight, despite having more cash.

"It's not like we're hemorrhaging money and we don't know what to do with it," Sanders said.

City Council President Tony Young said he and his colleagues will have to show spending restraint in the next few years.

"I share the mayor's cautious optimism that the city's structural budget deficit is pretty much over," Young said. "It's a wonderful thing."

A Mid-Year Budget Monitoring Report is scheduled to be delivered to the City Council's Budget Committee next Wednesday.

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