City Council OKs $1.45 Billion Budget with Most Infrastructure Spending Ever

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San Diego City Council members in the chamber following the budget vote. Image from video

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday that included last-minute funding for projects such as tree trimming, graffiti abatement and library security.

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Overall, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s $1.45 billion spending plan, introduced in April, generally avoided major cuts despite boosting infrastructure spending to its highest-ever level — triple what the city spent five years ago. Faulconer is expected to sign the budget into law Wednesday.

As is typical, city Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin authored Monday’s final revisions to include issues proposed by council members and the public during hearings over the last several months. Those proposals added $5.7 million in expenditures to the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Tree-trimming services received $882,000 to offset Faulconer’s original proposed budget cut, which would have meant that a tree trimmed every nine years would instead get trimmed once every 21 years.

A Faulconer-proposed cut of $300,000 from graffiti abatement in residential areas was also reversed, per Tevlin’s modifications.

Staffing for library security was boosted $288,000, while library programming received $100,000.

An additional $550,000 was diverted toward brush management used to prevent wildfires, and an ongoing expense of $400,000 was appropriated to hire five more code compliance officers.

Capital improvement spending on streetlights increased from $1.9 million to $4.9 million, enough to install about 245 poles, Tevlin said.

Amendments made by Councilmen David Alvarez and Chris Cate during Monday’s meeting also put $500,000 and $235,000 toward a proposed Chicano Park community center and improvements to the shuttered Epicentre in Mira Mesa, respectively.

Alvarez, who is serving his final council term, said the city is in much better financial shape than when he took office in 2010, particularly in regards to infrastructure spending.

“We’re in a different place now,” he said. “Obviously not everything gets funded in the budgets and it’s about priorities, but overall I think there’s a lot of priorities being addressed in this year’s budget.”

Faulconer’s May revisions, based on updated city revenue projections, were also included in Monday’s approved budget. The revisions included $9.7 million for police officer recruitment, firefighter overtime, infrastructure spending, City Attorney’s Office staffing and other programs.

Overall, Faulconer’s budget will spike capital improvement spending by $100 million over the previous budget year. Funds will go toward street repairs, sidewalks, parks projects and building upgrades.

The Pure Water sewage recycling program headlines the infrastructure package. Intended to reduce reliance on imported water, more than $121 million was allocated toward the project. Construction is set to begin early 2019.

Though he generally approved of the budget, City Councilman Scott Sherman urged the council to consider using future resources to pay off city debt ahead of schedule. He forecasted some “tough times in the next year or two.”

“We always seem to find money for hungry, hungry hippos so council members can chew away at things they want in their communities,” he said. “…We’re passing the buck more and more down the road to future generations.”

— City New Service

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