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San Diego City Council Responds Positively To Faulconer’s Proposed Budget

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Council members Lorie Zapf, Myrtle Cole, Mark Kersey, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman listen during a City Council meeting on March 23, 2015.

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The $3.2 billion spending plan, which would take effect July 1, includes funding for the repair of 300 miles of streets.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed $3.2 billion budget for the city of San Diego for the next fiscal year enjoyed a positive reception Tuesday when it was presented to the City Council.

Faulconer's plan envisions spending 7 percent more money than in the current fiscal year, leading some council members who have been around for awhile to admire how far the city has come fiscally since the recession.

"What a difference an economy makes," said Councilman Todd Gloria, who chairs the panel's Budget Committee.

RELATED: Mayor Faulconer Proposes $3.2 Billion Budget For San Diego

San Diego communities stand to benefit from the increased benefits, the mayor said.

"For our neighborhoods, last year's budget was a big step ... This year, we have the opportunity for a huge leap forward," Faulconer said.

The spending plan, which would take effect July 1, includes funding for the repair of 300 miles of streets. The mayor has made a goal of repaving 1,000 miles of roadways over the next five years, and he's set aside $49.2 million in a bond issue to pay some of the cost.

He is also proposing to expand operating hours at the city's 16 busiest recreation centers from 45 to 60 hours a week, upgrade playgrounds, install better lighting, and improve preschool and teen programs. Hours will be expanded at other recreation centers as soon as funding becomes available, he said.

The draft budget also builds on the city's activities of the current year by increasing broadband Internet access at libraries, expanding an after- school study program at libraries in communities with low test scores, staffing a new fire station in Mission Valley and a temporary fire facility in Skyline, adding more neighborhood code enforcement officers and updating nine community zoning plans.

Councilman David Alvarez thanked the mayor for funding some of the priorities he listed in a memo with council members who represent the city's southern districts, but said inequality is still a concern.

"However, in a budget — and I think the mayor acknowledged this — there is a gap. He talked about the south and north gap and it absolutely exists," Alvarez said.

Alvarez pointed to a Ocean View Hills resident who spoke to the council at the meeting about his now 15-year wait for a park in his community.

"That is one of my priorities and it's probably one of my biggest priorities over the last couple of years, and I really was hoping that that would be a priority in this year's budget as well. Unfortunately it is not still funded in this budget," he said.

Councilman Scott Sherman also praised the proposed spending plan but echoed some of Alvarez's comments.

"I've got a library in San Carlos that's been promised for over 20 years and we had a shade structure that took six years in Linda Vista — hundreds of thousands of dollars for a shade structure. And it just seems like there's issues sometimes that get in the way," Sherman said.

Katherine Johnston, director of budget and infrastructure policy in the mayor's office, said changes proposed by Faulconer in March are intended to streamline some of the roadblocks that slow down projects.

Specifically regarding the park in Alvarez's district, Johnston said funds shouldn't come from the city but from facility benefit assessment fees.

"Developers are expected to pay for those parks to mitigate the impact of their development. However, as part of the mayor's comprehensive infrastructure reform package, we're looking at ways to expedite that project by improving our cash management practices," she said.

RELATED: San Diegans: What Would You Change In Your City’s Budget?

Additionally, Faulconer plans to fund the creation of a master plan for De Anza Cove on Mission Bay. Residents of a mobile home park there are vacating the property following the end of a decades-long court battle.

The upcoming year's spending will be higher because of across-the-board revenue increases, according to the mayor's office.

The city is projecting a 4.25 percent hike in property tax income, 4 percent for sales taxes, 5.5 percent in hotel room taxes and 2 percent for franchise fees — which are paid for by companies like San Diego Gas & Electric and Cox.

The council members will hold hearings on the budget May 4 to 8, combing through the spending plans of individual departments, and hold a public hearing on the overall document on May 21. A vote on a final budget will take place in June.

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