When the mayor's office released the City's 2012–2016 five-year financial outlook on February 1, there was cause for celebration. The outlook revealed that next year's $72.5 million budget shortfall had shrunk by $28 million due to increased sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenues.
During the February 9 budget and finance committee meeting, Mark Leonard, director of financial management, said the math was wrong.
"The original [five-year financial outlook] released last week contained a technical error in the forecast mechanism," Leonard told the committee.
Leonard went on to say that $10.2 million of transient occupancy tax expected for the City's general fund was "double counted."
"As a result, the fiscal year 2012 projected deficit is $56.7 million, not the $46.5 million as originally projected," said Leonard. "Nothing else changed, it was just this one assumption."
The deficits will continue. The City's financial department predicts the deficit will grow to $61.9 million in 2013. The budget outlook improves in the following years, shrinking to $54.9 million in 2014; in 2015, $33.1 million; and in 2016, the shortfall is expected to be $8.8 million.
San Diego's financial managers foresee "uncertain recovery." They expect home values to grow and consumer spending and transit occupancy tax revenues to increase. However, those bright notes are muted by high unemployment rates and decreased home sales.
During the meeting, Leonard did admit that some future savings from programs such as "managed competition" and the mayor's Parking Utilization Plan were not included in the forecast because the actual savings are undetermined and would "simply be a guess."