Public safety, infrastructure focus of Faulconer’s 2015 budget
There will be more police on the streets, smoother roads, improved emergency response times, more after-school programs at libraries and funding for homeless shelters. After a decade of severance cuts and spiking pension payments followed by reforms and an improving economy, Faulconer's budget reflects the concerns of the voters.
“Simply put, this nearly $3 billion budget returns City Hall's focus to San Diego neighborhoods and puts our vision for one San Diego to work,” said the mayor. “City Hall is now saving millions of dollars and generating new revenue. Now, it's time to put those savings back into our communities.”
The major focus is public safety. The budget funds 17 civilians for the police department, adding $3.2 million for pay increases and four police academies; the fire department gets two additional academies, a temporary station in the skyline neighborhood and four new lifeguards.
Infrastructure is also a top priority. More money is budgeted for streets, sidewalks and lighting. This is the beginning of a long-term effort to address the $1 billion in infrastructure needs.
“It is no secret that we need more sidewalks in the 4th district,” said councilmember Myrtle Cole. “This budget will help to revitalize our neighborhoods.”
“Unless we start putting more general fund dollars towards infrastructure, we will never be able to catch up with the backlog,” said another councilmember Mark Kersey.
Recently, the City Council – at the mayor's request – approved a $120 million infrastructure bond issue. But the bonds can't be issued until a court decides whether the bonds can be issued without a vote of the people. The city is requesting an expedited court hearing. This budget reflects the savings from reforms and increased revenues from property, sales and TOT taxes.
“More than 50% of growth from our major revenues is going to efforts to fix our neighborhoods,” said Faulconer. “Neighborhood services will be increased.”
The budget goes to the City Council Tuesday, then everybody gets a chance to weigh in.
“The council will sit as the Budget Review Committee in the coming weeks, kicking off May 5th, with budgets of police and fire rescue departments,” stated Council President Todd Gloria.
Library hours will be extended by four hours a week with an additional 16 employees. And more people will be hired for the Parks and Recreation Department.