San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward. File photo
San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward. File photo

A one-year suspension of a voter-approved measure that directs certain funds to infrastructure projects in San Diego was proposed Monday by a member of the City Council.

Councilman Chris Ward said putting a hold on Proposition H, passed by voters last June, would free up more than $15 million for public safety use and arts funding. He announced his idea one day before Mayor Kevin Faulconer is set to unveil planned revisions to his $3.6 billion budget proposal.

The city of San Diego’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is being squeezed by a big jump in the required contribution to the employee pension system — the result of projections that retirees will live longer, coupled with a weak investment performance.

“This year we’re facing across-the-board cuts to every city department and all options to restore and protect neighborhood services need to be on the table,” Ward said. “When voters passed Proposition H to fix our roads, we couldn’t have expected a major boost in state-level funding for the exact same thing.”

Ward referred to a hike in the state gasoline tax to fund road improvements in California.

Proposition H, championed by Councilman Mark Kersey, passed with 65 percent voter support. It directs the growth in sales taxes and any reductions in pension payments into local infrastructure projects.

The measure also has a clause allowing it to be suspended during lean budget years.

Ward suggested using $5 million of the proceeds to restore a planned cut to the Commission on Arts and Culture — which provides financial support to various arts groups, $3.9 million for police officer retention and $3 million to maintain minimum police staffing levels.

Remaining funds would go to various uses, including expanding the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team.

—City News Service