At 9 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, November 13th, the city Budget Review Committee met in a crowded and raucous city council chambers to discuss Mayor Sanders’s plan for $43 million in budget cuts for the next fiscal year. The cuts, which mostly affect Parks and Recreation Department, libraries, and police and fire services, are in response to an estimated shortfall in property, sales, and transient-occupancy taxes caused by the lagging economy.
Mayor Sanders was there. Glumly, he expressed the need for cuts in city services and outlined the city’s bleak five-year financial outlook.
“The path I’ve chosen will not make me popular in some quarters because it spreads the pain widely to departments and communities that have never been asked to make sacrifices and because it challenges the notion that all city facilities are equal and we can never take back from our citizens a service or a program once it’s been offered.
“Adding to our difficulty is a culture of deception and denial we have tried so hard to eradicate over the past three years. There was a time when every budget hearing included dire warnings that popular programs would be slashed. So, every year our citizens stormed city hall demanding their city services be spared and as if by magic, previous mayors and city councils granted those wishes and were treated as heroes. They did so by deceiving the public and maybe themselves. Now, everyone has to make sacrifices, even the ones that complain the loudest.”
The mayor mentioned the protested cuts to fire services and responded to a demonstration outside by the firefighters union:
“I accepted the professional judgment from my fire chief and police chief when it came to cutting their budgets. I expect you’ll hear a lot of scary stories from the firefighters union…these scare tactics are a bunch of baloney. They’re typical of a public employee but unworthy of our firefighting service. I would never put the City at risk.”
After the mayor’s speech, the city’s chief financial officer, Mary Lewis, commented on San Diego’s five-year financial outlook. The outlook was just as gloomy as the mayor’s demeanor. There is negative-to-flat revenue growth expected, no pay raises for city employees, and no funding for new facilities. On a bright note, no new taxes were forecast for the next handful of years.
Download the mayor’s five-year financial outlook for yourself.