The San Diego City Council’s Budget Review Committee received Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed budget revisions Thursday, and “disappointment” was a recurring theme.
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The May revision includes updated revenue and expenditure projections developed since Faulconer’s original proposed $1.45 billion spending plan was released.
Faulconer’s office proposes spending an additional $9.7 million in new revenue on firefighter overtime, infrastructure spending, City Attorney’s Office staffing and police recruitment, as well as a few other programs.
Though the revision includes more than $700,000 to be spent on infrastructure at the City Council’s discretion, committee member Myrtle Cole lamented the lack of funding for “basics.” District 4 constituents have been requesting sidewalk and streetlight installations for more than four years, she said.
“They said we need sidewalks. Not repair, not replace — you can’t replace something you don’t have,” Cole said. “…They should not have to beg for basics in my district.”
Cole and committee member Georgette Gomez also questioned the lack of additional funding for tree trimming.
Faulconer’s original proposed budget includes an $882,000 reduction in tree-trimming funds, which is similar to a proposal suggested by the mayor’s office, then rejected by the council last year. If the reduction stays in place, the amount of trees trimmed in fiscal year 2019 would fall from 20,000 to 10,000. Trees trimmed once every nine years would instead be maintained once every 21 years.
City officials said they would try to boost the tree-trimming budget in the revision, but funding remained static.
“I think maybe we misunderstood, because there was an understanding from (the committee) that it would be part of it,” Gomez said.
City Financial Management Director Tracy McCraner said firefighter overtime sapped money from other potential revision priorities.
December brought an unusually severe fire season. A new labor deal also mandates that firefighters with significant unspent vacation time use it more aggressively, which means other firefighters have to work overtime to fill staffing gaps.
The revision includes $6.8 million to cover overtime.
“That extreme fire season overtime masked the impact of the new MOU overtime provision that went into effect this year, so what we saw in the January, February, March time frame was overtime wasn’t going down as it had in years past,” McCraner said.
Committee member Barbara Bry expressed concern over the lack of advanced communication regarding fire overtime.
She also had several problems with the May revision, including the amount of council discretionary funding and the lack of additional tree-trimming and graffiti abatement funds.
“When I did my state of the district speech I talked about being imaginative, innovative and inclusive in order to prioritize and craft lasting solutions for our city,” Bry said. “With that in mind, I’m disappointed.”
–City News Service
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