City Council begins week of discussions on Mayor’s $3.6B budget proposal
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The persistent staffing problem in the San Diego Police Department is scheduled to be addressed Wednesday when the City Council begins a week-long series of hearings to sift through Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed $3.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The meetings will allow the council members to take a department-by- department look at planned revenues and expenditures.
City Council members have listed resolving the long-standing SDPD recruiting and retention issue as a top priority for several years now, and additional money has been appropriated to increase officers’ take-home pay.
Just last week, however, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman reported to a council committee that her department employed 207 fewer officers than called for in the budget, with officers leaving at a rate of 13 per month, figures that are worse than previous years. The number of applications submitted by prospective officers has fallen by 36 percent over the past two years, she said.
A 169-page review by the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office noted that the proposed spending plan maintains the SDPD’s recruiting budget at $50,000 and doesn’t fund requests by some council members to conduct a survey of current officers and engage an outside firm to develop a recruitment strategy. An update to a study of police salary levels in other cities was funded, according to the IBA.
The IBA review suggested that "new resources or approaches may be required to preserve police officer staffing levels in the coming fiscal year."
The report didn’t offer any major criticisms of the mayor’s spending proposal, but council members were alerted to a handful of issues besides police staffing that were worth scrutiny. Among them:
- the city is falling behind on necessary expenditures to ensure compliance with storm water permits, which total $3.1 billion through 2040
- a loss of more than 20 library jobs that shouldn’t impact operating hours but could affect customer service and slow the re-shelving of materials
- cutbacks in parks maintenance staff that could reduce the frequency of grass mowing and pesticide application
- a 30 percent reduction in the habitat restoration budget that could result in less frequent removal of non-native plants
- an $882,000 cut in spending on tree-trimming
The hearings are scheduled to run daily through Tuesday.
The City Council is also scheduled to host a special nighttime meeting on May 15 to collect public input from people unable to make it to City Hall during the day. The mayor will release revisions to the proposal, based on all the feedback, later this month.
The council is required by the City Charter to approve a spending plan by June 15.