Budget: San Diego City Edition…


June 16, 2014 (San Diego) After exploring the County of San Diego Budget, it is fitting to look at the one issued by the City of San Diego. 

The City issues them every June and they are choke full of details. This year the proposed budget also reflected promises made by both Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council Member David Alvarez during the special election after the resignation of former Mayor Bob Filner.

Both promised to increase the size of the Police Force and the Fire Department, and the budget reflects this. It states that:

“The Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget also addresses public safety needs with the addition of 45 Police sworn positions which includes nine positions for the May 2014 Police academy and 36 positions to increase the four planned academies in Fiscal Year 2015 from 34 to 43 recruits. In addition, 17.00 (Full Time Equivalent) FTE Police civilian positions were added to support the Police Department operations, 1.00 Assistant Police Chief, $3.2 million for the continued funding of the Police retention program, and $1.0 million for Police body worn cameras. For the Fire-Rescue Department, funding of $1.1 million for two additional Fire academies, $951,489 for the Skyline temporary fire station, $599,000 for the Fast Response Program, the addition of 4.00 Lifeguard IIIs for the Boating Safety Unit, and $500,000 for lifeguard facility improvements for the Boating Safety Unit are included in this budget.”

Those of us who are cynical would point out that the Police and Fire Departments were already stretched thin, so creating these positions is not that unexpected.

There is a reason the city can afford to do this. After years of deficits (and we still have one), the city is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and economic modeling has the city actually seeing constant growth for the next five years. This growth automatically translates into a larger tax base. This presumes the end of deficit spending.

Some of these items have been already been approved, such as the body cameras for the Police Department at least for phase one.

Other promises already met, that both candidates made, is to increase the number of library hours. Though that is coming at a cost. The acquisition budget is not growing, in fact it is losing ground.

The City is also planing to open the the Kumeyaay Campground for overnight camping, as well as increasing the support of the arts. And in a world with increasing wild fires, the brush abatement program is continuing at the tune of half a million dollars.

Summer programs are also in place, including youth employment.

The big picture, which includes Police, Fire and Lifeguard programs, comprises 39.7% of the total proposed budget. Unlike the County, where this is a separate section of the budget, the General Fund also funds parks and rec and refuse collection. It has seen a reduction from the 2014 budget, but operations are continuing.

The two departments that take the lion share of this proposed section of the budget are San Diego Police with 417 m, and the Fire Department with 218 m.

Regarding Pension Reform and Proposition B:

“On June 5, 2012, City of San Diego voters approved Proposition B, a pension reform initiative amending the San Diego City Charter. As a result, all employees hired on or after July 20, 2012, other than sworn police officers, are no longer eligible to participate in the City’s defined benefit plan and are only eligible to participate in a defined contribution plan.”

Yet nowhere in the budget is there clarification whether these employees are now participating in Social Security, which until Prop B passed, they were not.

The City is also moving away from relying on the Department of Defense as it’s number one employer, which stems partly from the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). San Diego lost significant base closures, among them Naval Training Center (NTC).

The city is moving aggressively to restructure the regional economy towards research as well as foreign trade. This is changing the nature of the city, and how people make a living. We have a very healthy research component between UCSD, Scripps, San Diego State and other public and private research institutions. Tourism is also a critical component of this new economy. So we have two very well paid areas, and a slew of people supporting that with minimum pay wages. This also explains the current effort to raise that base wage.

It is the eight largest city in the nation, and the second largest city in California. This will explain the total size of the budget, which stands at 2.97 Billion dollars.

Categories: analysis, City Hall Politics

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