The San Diego City Council will cast its final vote at 2:00 pm today – Monday, June 11th, on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ budget for fiscal year 2013. Sanders released his budget in April. Stronger than projected although still modest revenue increases this past year enabled Sanders to address General Fund cuts that have occurred with regularity over the past years, with libraries and park and recreation being hit particularly hard.
The City Council held two public hearings since April on the budget. Council members then released their own budget recommendations with input from the Office of Independent Budget Analysis (IBA). Mayor Sanders subsequently released a revised budget in May. The City Council will vote on that revised budget today.
There are a number of items worth noting on both the revenue and expenditure side. The IBA has recommended increasing the estimates of TOT and sales tax by $1.7 million. That indicates a cautious belief that the hospitality industry and general consumption are on a modest upswing. The IBA recommended, however, a reduction in anticipated property tax revenue by $2 million. That should be taken as a strong indication of the lack of stability in the housing market.
The budgets of a number of the general fund departments will be increased for specific high priority purposes. The mayor’s revised budget includes additional funding for both Police and Fire Academies; restoration of the Graffiti Team (previously eliminated in the initial proposed budget); an additional three hours of library branch hours, increasing all branches from 41 to 44 hours per week; restoration of five Saturday hours at the Central Library; providing partial funding for the Neil Good Day Center for homeless services; and a funding increase for Community Plan Updates.
A number of priorities has gone unaddressed this budget round. The Community Budget Alliance has advocated for funding for youth services, particularly the institution of teen nights in communities with high gang activity. Other citizens and civic groups have advocated for staffing at skateboard parks, additional tree trimming services and more park and recreation staff. The IBA has recommended the restoration of civilian positions within the Police Department as well as the restoration of previous Lifeguard cuts. The slow growth of the economy and the unwillingness of the local electorate to increase taxes guarantee that budget restorations in the near future will be minimal.
The budget that the City Council approves today will be instituted within an uncertain political and economic environment. A big unknown is the unwinding of redevelopment. Mayor Sanders’ budget, with IBA approval, includes a set aside of $14.4 million of projected TOT funds and Appropriated Reserves money to address the impacts of the dissolution of redevelopment. Diversion of revenue from the General Fund creates yet another drag on the restoration of core City services.