Filner proposes ‘transition’ city budget with few cuts

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Bob Filner kept the budget cutting ax at bay for the most part Monday as he proposed a $2.75 billion spending plan for the city of San Diego for the next fiscal year.

The overall budget proposal is 0.1 percent smaller than the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. But general fund spending, which includes basic city services such as public safety and libraries, would be $1.2 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent.

The first budget proposal of the new mayor's term will now go to the City Council for changes and adoption.

“This is a transition budget,” Filner told reporters.

He said he and his financial staff tried to squeeze his priorities — improving public safety and services in the city's neighborhoods — into a budget scenario with pressures unforeseen before he took office.

“We balanced it in a way we thought was responsible,” Filner said.

He used $21.6 million of a settlement with San Diego Gas & Electric over the 2007 wildfires to patch some holes in the budget, and renewed his call for a five-year agreement with labor that he said would lower the city's contributions to the employee retirement system.

The budget proposal would add the equivalent of almost 38 full-time jobs citywide.

Spending increases include $3.2 million for deferred capital operations and maintenance; $2.4 million to operate the soon-to-open Central Library; $1.6 million for supporting arts programs; $1.3 million for maintaining a homeless shelter; and $1.2 million for additional police recruits.

Spending reductions include saving $5.6 million by delaying debt service payments on a capital improvements bond until the following fiscal year; a $2.1 million contribution to a public liability fund that an actuarial study found to be unnecessary; and $1.4 million to the City Attorney's Office.

The cut to the budget of City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, the mayor's political rival, amounts to the loss of 13 positions. Filner said Goldsmith's office had grown in personnel over the past five years while other departments lost workers.

“This is a couple percent, it's not a major thing,” Filner said. “There's vacancies in all departments, so I'm not sure it's any problem. Under the terms, as I understand, of the (City) Charter, the attorney could adjust those savings in any way he wants, and he has said on a couple occasions, as long as you don't tell me where I have to make the cuts, it's fine.”

The City Attorney's Office had not immediate response to a request for

City Council President Todd Gloria issued a statement that said the City
Attorney's Office reduction was “curious” and “unlikely to be implemented
as proposed.”

He said the council wants to limit the use of outside counsel.

On the overall budget proposal, Gloria said, “The council will do its
job of making sure the adopted budget is balanced in a manner that is fiscally
responsible and follows the Statement of Budgetary Principles which has allowed
the city's finances to improve.”

The statement is a set of guidelines for council members to follow
during budgeting season.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the budget proposal dispenses with
budget discipline and “repeats the mistakes of City Hall's past.”

“The mayor's budget further delays critically needed street repair
projects yet increases other government spending for years into the future by
raiding the city's savings accounts and gambling our stability on future
revenue growth,” Faulconer said.

The proposed budget is scheduled to be presented to the City Council on
Tuesday afternoon.

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