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Mayor Gloria Proposes $4.6 Billion Budget To Help City Recover From COVID-19

 April 16, 2021 at 10:11 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Money from the federal government has saved the city of San Diego from making deep cuts and layoffs and its city budget for next year. That's the message from mayor Todd, Gloria, as he unveiled his first budget proposal on Thursday, the mayor says funds from the American rescue plan have more than covered. The $120 million deficit expected after a year of pandemic shutdowns. Now Gloria says the city can invest in small business relief convention center, operations street improvements and police oversight, but there are some cuts included in his budget proposal involving new library hours and police overtime. Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen and Andrew. Hi. Speaker 2: 00:45 Hi Maureen. Thanks. Speaker 1: 00:47 Did the funds from the American rescue plan make all the difference in this budget proposal? Speaker 2: 00:53 They really did. The city is receiving or expects to receive in total about $306 million in federal aid. And it's using it spreading that over a couple of years, it's using about 51 million to balance the current fiscal year. Cause we haven't, you know, fully recovered yet. And we've been spending a little bit more than what we've been taking in a $141 million. It would go to the next fiscal year, uh, which starts on July 1st. And then the balance of about 114 million would go to the following fiscal year or years after that even, um, Gloria says without the aid in the American rescue plan, the city would have had to make really serious cuts to services, lay off workers, potentially ask them to take a pay cut after they spent the last year, really, you know, struggling through this pandemic. And an interesting note is the cares act funding from last year had to be spent in 2020. It could, they couldn't spread it over multiple years. So the America can rescue plan has a bit of a different rule and it allows cities to, uh, you know, kind of balance the, uh, their budgets with some modest cuts, uh, and then use these one-time dollars to spread out over a, uh, recovery that it will likely take years. Speaker 1: 02:05 And so then what kind of relief does the mayor propose to offer do small business? Speaker 2: 02:11 Well, he's proposing $10 million in loans to nonprofits and small businesses. And the focus is meant to be on the industry. His hardest hit by the pandemic and also minority owned businesses. And he also wants to create a concierge team at the city to handle requests and questions and, and things like that from the applicants. Uh, the budget announcement, uh, on Thursday was at a Mexican restaurant in city Heights. And the owners spoke to reporters at that press conference saying that the bureaucracy is just submitting. The application for aid in previous rounds was one of the biggest barriers to receiving that aid. So, um, business owners might feel discouraged or intimidated by all of the forms that are, you know, in the requirements boxes you have to check to that are really meant to make sure the money is spent properly. Um, but the goal seems to be just have a team on the city, uh, at the city on standby to help those business owners access the aid that they're entitled to. Speaker 1: 03:07 And what kind of funding is proposed for the convention center? We just heard that the convention center is supposed to be getting funding from that newly restored measure C tax. Speaker 2: 03:18 Well, potentially the city is not going to collect that additional tax revenue until it gets a favorable decision from a judge. So there's still some ambiguity there. And then also the money is meant to go to the actual physical expansion of the convention center, not its operations. And so the mayor is proposing $10.2 million just to basically keep the convention center operational. So it's not forced to lay off all of its workforce or much of its workforce. Um, while the economy right now is still gaining some steam and, and starting to recover, large conventions will probably be one of the last things to return to normal. They involve, you know, of course, big crowds, there's a high potential for spreading the virus, even if the pandemic has mostly subsided. So in order to keep the convention center corporation ready for that return to a large, for large conventions, um, the mayor wants to subsidize its operations in the interim. Speaker 1: 04:13 And despite the federal dollars may Gloria is proposing a change to the city's library hours. What's that about? Speaker 2: 04:21 Yeah, this is probably the change in the budget that would, that would be most noticeable to a residents, especially if they patronize libraries a lot. Um, the physical libraries have been shuttered since the onset of the pandemic. They, the department has developed some virtual programming where you can browse the books online, maybe do a contact delivery, uh, contactless, um, pickup and drop off of those books. And they've got eBooks. You can also check out. Um, but when the library is open in person, the mayor is proposing running them on a Tuesday to Saturday schedule. And, uh, so they'd be closed Sundays and Mondays. And this is expected to save about $6.9 million. Some of which would be reinvested in the libraries system and the digital, um, uh, programming they had. I asked Gloria why he felt that this area libraries, which are very popular among residents is an area of the budget that should be cut. And here's what he said. Speaker 3: 05:13 We've figured out a way to do library services during the pandemic. And you see other opportunities that people are engaging or using like drive through and whatnot. We feel like this is the time to maybe reposition this particularly important of department to better serve the needs of our residents and also making investments into the electronic media, more actual inventory of items that folks can check out or download as well as virtual hours. That might actually be a net service increase for folks who want to get to the libraries even after hours that are currently programmed. Speaker 1: 05:43 Okay. Then. So although the overall police budget would be going up under this proposal, the police overtime budget is going down. Why is that? Speaker 2: 05:53 Well, the, yeah, as you mentioned, the police budget would go up by about million dollars, mostly because of salary and benefit increases that the mayor is budgeting for across the entire city workforce. Um, the $4 million reduction in overtime mean overtime is an easier area for the city to cut from its police budget. It's a lot of that, um, uh, money is, is, uh, basically discretionary. The city can choose to fund these overtime hours or not. And so the savings is supposed to be put toward this new independent, uh, commission on police practices and also community programs that are meant to prevent gang violence and also, um, youth focused diversion programs to kind of support communities, um, and, and help kind of prevent crimes before they happen. Speaker 1: 06:37 Okay. So the mayor formally submits his $4.6 billion budget to the city council next week. What happens from there? Speaker 2: 06:46 The council begins a weeks long process of reviewing the budget. Each department, a line-by-line basically on, there are several community budget town halls where the public can learn more. And then, uh, based on all of the feedback that he gets, the mayor presents a revised budget in mid may. And, uh, then the, all that, this leads up to a final vote at the city council on the budget. And that's scheduled for June 14th. Speaker 1: 07:12 I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Thank you. My pleasure. Speaker 4: 07:18 Yeah.

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Nonprofit and small business loans, building "sexy" streets, reducing police overtime, investing in the city's Climate Equity Fund and a focus on supporting the San Diego Convention Center are among the highlights of Mayor Todd Gloria's $4.6 billion proposed budget.
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