"It's really a life raft to keep the city afloat," said Escondido councilmember Marie Waldron during Wednesday evening's city council meeting.
The life raft that Waldron was referring to was a list of proposed cuts to account for the $10.5 million deficit during this fiscal year and $9.1 million for next fiscal year. At Wednesday's council meeting, councilmembers learned that city revenues continue to fall short of projections, this year by $7 million. During the past three years, sales tax revenues have dropped by $20 million.
To balance the budget, city councilmembers heard a list of cuts to city services. The cuts included $2.4 million from the city's police and fire departments, $1 million from libraries, and $770,000 from the park and recreation department.
"The problem that we face today is simply we did not cut spending soon enough and deep enough. It's not the time for finger pointing and it's not the time for criticism," said councilmember Sam Abed, who is running for mayor in November's upcoming election.
Abed has some ideas to cut the large deficits and balance the budget.
"We need to look at different and more creative solutions. We haven't done enough outsourcing," said Abed after pitching his idea to outsource the city's library to the county, which he says would save the city $750,000. "Why can't we give our library to the county?"
Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler took the microphone after Abed's comments. Pfeiler raised the issue of generating revenues through possibly increasing sales tax or creating a parcel tax, only after hearing from the community that they would support increasing taxes. Pfeiler then went on to suggest using the reserves to balance this year's budget instead of making additional cuts to city services.
"You cannot balance this budget in this short of time," said Pfeiler. By using the reserves, the council would be leaving the reserves at ten percent of the budget, not the 15 percent required by council policy.
"I'd rather buy books than bullets," said councilmember Olga Diaz, showing her support for libraries and her objections to shaving any more from the library budget.
The budget subcommittee plans to meet on a weekly basis to solve the budget deficit. They will look into using reserves to balance the budget and by cutting government spending as well. The subcommittee will appear at next week's council meeting to report on any progress, or any further revenue shortages.