The city’s backlog of deferred infrastructure projects is piling up. According to the city’s five-year financial outlook and 2010 budget, the backlog of repairs to city streets, sidewalks, and storm drains, and upkeep for libraries, and fire department and park facilities falls somewhere between $800 and $900 million.
Last month the mayor announced the financing of $102 million in bonds for capital improvements. In addition, $11.8 million was set aside from land-sale proceeds for deferred maintenance projects in the 2010 budget.
While the mayor and his financial team are chipping away at the backlog, some council members and representatives from the San Diego Taxpayers Association say the figures the mayor’s office is using are outdated and conservative.
At the April 15 Budget Committee meeting, Lani Lutar, president of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, was the first to mention deferred maintenance projects during a ten-minute presentation on ways the city can return to financial solvency. Lutar said the Taxpayers Association has lobbied the city for over a decade to be more aggressive in saving for deferred maintenance projects.
“This $900 million -- those figures are three years old. Based on that, you can assume that the backlog could be closer to $1 billion, and that’s a pretty conservative figure. This table is outdated and it really emphasizes the point that deferred maintenance should continually be addressed,” said Lutar while referring to the project estimates provided by the city.
Councilmember Todd Gloria said that deferred maintenance for the older neighborhoods in District Three and Balboa Park alone would account for much of the $900 million estimate. Gloria says a recent study of Balboa Park identified nearly $234 million in necessary capital improvement projects.
“We know this $900 million figure is far short,” said Gloria during the meeting. “I know that it is substantially more than this, and we need to stay focused on that.”
In response, the city’s chief financial officer, Mary Lewis, said the city has received current assessments for the cost of street, sidewalk, and storm-drain repairs but awaits submittal of the facilities assessment. “Also, the $900 million -- while it’s been our working assumption -- does not take into account some of the work that has happened over the past three years, so we’re making progress on that number even though we don’t know what that is at this point.”
Andrea Tevlin, the city’s independent budget analyst, said she believes the numbers for deferred maintenance projects to be “way north of $900 million” and is concerned that updated figures are not available.
Moments after Tevlin’s comments, Lewis delivered a presentation outlining the mayor’s proposed $3 billion budget for fiscal year 2010.
On the handouts issued to the committee, the deferred maintenance estimate was at $500 to $700 million.
“That number is a typo, I apologize,” said Lewis. “That should the $800 to $900 million estimate. That’s our working estimate.”