San Diego residents will be able to offer input on Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposed $4.6 billion budget at a special City Council meeting Monday evening as part of the annual budgetary process.
Proceedings will begin at 6 p.m.
Gloria’s budget comes with around $306 million in federal relief to San Diego through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which Gloria proposed to use to strengthen the local economy and stabilize city finances. Before Biden signed the relief package, San Diego was looking at a deficit of $124 million — a figure that exceeds the entire Parks and Recreation Department annual budget.
Gloria’s budget represents a 13.4% increase over last year’s spending plan — an increase of more than $537 million. Much of that increase — around $400 million — is attributed to the Pure Water Project.
However, despite the windfall of federal relief dollars and the increase in the overall budget proposal, Gloria’s budget has already come under fire from the public and members of the City Council — particularly regarding the cutting of library hours and an increase in police funding.
“Budgets require choices, and when we choose one thing rather than another we reveal the values that drive us,” Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe said Monday.
Gloria proposed reducing the city’s library hours to Tuesday through Saturday, a savings of $6.9 million, his staff estimates. On May 6, however, Gloria said he will attempt to maintain library service hours.
“I am committed to working with the library director, Department of Finance and the City Council to offer a proposal in the May Revise to restore library hours,” Gloria said. “It is my intent to get back to a seven-day-a- week schedule across our library system over the next year. Staff is still working through the details, but more information will be released later this month.”
Also in the budget is a proposed $19 million increase to the San Diego Police Departments’ budget. The city has increased the SDPD’s budget for the last 10 years, an increase of more than $200 million since 2011.
Last year, when then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed his budget in the heart of COVID-19 lockdowns, one council meeting featured hundreds of public callers and more than 4,000 emails demanding that the council not only reject the mayor’s proposed $27 million increase to the police but cut the existing budget dramatically.
Despite the outpouring of protest, the council passed the budget and the uptick in police spending 8-1.
Much of the police budget increase comes as part of non-discretionary spending — pensions, etc. — over which Gloria has little say. He has committed to cut police overtime by $4 million.
“My ‘Back to Work SD’ budget prioritizes an equitable recovery from the impacts of the pandemic while setting the foundation of a brighter future for all of us,” Gloria said in April. “Despite a structural budget deficit inherited from the previous administration, we took a pragmatic approach to balancing this budget while protecting core services and investing in the people who have suffered the most throughout this past year.”
The $4.6 billion budget proposal recommends spending levels for city operations and capital projects for Fiscal Year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The final budget will be adopted in June.
The full budget proposal can be found at www.sandiego.gov/finance/proposed.
All public budget hearings can be viewed live at http://sandiego.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=31.
–City News Service