The City of San Diego Adopted Budget

March 30, 2016 (San Diego) As we are fond of saying, budgets are not just fiscal documents, but also political documents. The City of San Diego has issued the 2016 adopted budget, and it does point to city priorities.

First the big numbers; the total numbers are in the billions of dollars:

Fund Type FY 2015 FY 2016
General Fund $ 1,202.4 $ 1,288.0
Special Revenue Funds 383.3 410.4
Debt Service and Tax Funds1
Capital Projects Funds 12.5 13.2
Enterprise Funds 933.7 1,007.0
Internal Service Funds 165.3 188.9
Capital Improvements Program 310.0 367.6
Total $ 3,007.3 $ 3,275.1

The budget went up from last year by $267.8 million. As you can also see there are several funds. Most of the city’s spending comes from the General fund, which is coming at $1.29 billion dollars. So what does the general fund pay for? It pays for police, fire, streets, infrastructure, and some general services. Most of the services the city provides do come from the general fund.

How is that fund paid for? According to the released city budget these are the sources.

  • Economic Environment
  • Property Tax
  • Sales Tax
  • Safety Sales Taxes
  • General Fund Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)
    • Property Transfer Tax
    • Franchise Fees
    • Licenses and Permits
    • Fines, Forfeitures, and Penalties
    • Revenue from Money and Property
      • Rents and 

      • Interest Earnings 
Revenue from Other Agencies 

      • Revenue from Federal 
& Other Agencies 

      • Revenue from Federal & Other Agencies 
Charges for Current Services 
Other Financial Sources & Uses 
Other Revenue 
State of California Budget Impacts 
Annual Tax Appropriations Limit (Gann Limit) 
User Fees 

Think about this when you pay your groceries. Your sales tax is paying for police and fire services. Among things that we will see concretely paid for are roads, and the Bay Side fire station. Here it is in a graphical form.


So now that we know this, what does this money pay for? The budget has some examples of what might be priorities for the city. For example in District 9 we find that this is in the works for the Park at Chollas:

  • Park at Chollas Parkway: $250,000 for a General Development Plan to design a community park and open space network that utilizes the existing Chollas Parkway right-of-way from 54th Street on the west to University Avenue on the east. The little used parkway would be closed and vacated, allowing for a new (approximately 11-acre) neighborhood recreation and open space park located in its place. Opportunities exist for a mixture of active and passive park uses. The open space lands would be part of a habitat restoration effort consistent with the goals of the Chollas Creek Enhancement Program. The area is currently undergoing a Community Plan Amendment and environmental review. Phased construction could potentially be funded from Development Impact Fees and other sources beginning in FY17.

This is in the works for District 8

Sherman Heights Community Center: $70,000 to provide playground equipment for the only community center in the northern part of District 8. The Center once had playground equipment but the pieces are missing, have been removed, or lack repairs.

Of course there is always the police and fire items in the budget. San Diego Police has a problem with retention of both experienced officers and recruits. This costs a lot of money to the tax payer, as this personnel go to neighboring departments. The budget does account for the Memorandum of Understanding to increase pay for officers, to make it more competitive with neighboring departments. It also will do the following:

  • Police Recruitment and Retention: 
funding for the implementation of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the San Diego Police Officers Association to improve the recruitment and retention of police officers.
  • Police Academies and Positions: 
funding for four Police Academies with an average of 43 recruits in each academy combined with the addition of sworn and civilian positions to support the rebuilding of San Diego’s Police Department.
  • Police Equipment: additional funding to upgrade the City’s Computer Aided 
Dispatch system (CAD) and other essential equipment for sworn officers.
    • Fire Academies: addition of two Fire academies for a total of three academies to maintain staffing in the Fire-Rescue Department.
    • Staffing for New Fire Stations: 
additional funding for staffing and operating Fire Station No. 45 – Eastside Mission Valley and the temporary Fire Station on Skyline Drive.
    • Fire Fast Response Squads: continued funding of the Fast Response Squad in Encanto and the addition of one new Fast Response Squad in University City subject to meet and confer with the City’s impacted labor organizations.
    • Advanced Lifeguard Academy: 
additional funding for positions and equipment needed to support an advanced lifeguard academy to maintain adequate levels of trained lifeguards.
    • Lifeguard Positions: additional funding and positions to increase staffing at Windansea, the Boating Safety Unit, and Pacific Beach.

These are important items. The budget also takes into account to fixing streets and city infrastructure, The budget has this in there:

Repairing Streets and Investing in Infrastructure

Mayor Faulconer has committed to dedicate at least 50 percent of major General Fund revenue growth to repairing streets and investing in infrastructure. The Fiscal Year 2016 Adopted Budget includes a net $43.9 million in new infrastructure expenditures, which exceeds the 50 percent commitment of $35.9 million.

It is clear that now that the economy has come out of the hole there are three parallel priorities from the budget. The first is improving the quality of life of residents. Libraries have had hours extended. Community centers are coming up. Green spaces are in the works.

The second big ticket item for the city is infrastructure. Whether it is fixing it, or building new infrastructure. Roads are a very large priority. We have seen ourselves the result of that effort, as Friars road, starting near Morena and ending by Fashion Valley, was resurfaced on both sides.

We have also seen new fire stations built and a new one is on the way. Which brings us to the third major priority. This is public safety. San Diego Police in particular has a problem competing for personnel with neighboring departments. It is the pay, and it is the equipment. Both are now being addressed. The city has tried to do things on the cheap for over a decade and the piper has come and gone.

Reading the budget can be a hard job, but it also reveals interesting tidbits. One that particular caught our eye was the effect of the Affordable Care Act on city finances. Given how much the ACA has become a major fight politically across the country, we found this particularly interesting:

The City currently offers healthcare coverage to all of its full time, three-quarter time, and half-time employees through the Flexible Benefits Plan. The majority of City employees qualify for the Flexible Benefits Plan, thus complying with a key component of the Affordable Care Act. Health care coverage will be extended to non-standard hour employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month, per the Affordable Care Act, with minimum fiscal impact in Fiscal Year 2016. The City continues to monitor Affordable Care Act mandates and clarifications to assess the impacts on City benefit plans.

I believe this brings that discussion into a different realm. San Diego is not precisely a small city. We are the 2nd largest city in California and the 8th largest in the country. When one reads things like this, one has to think of the effect on large private sector organizations who also said this would bring Armageddon. For some reason, this statement from the city puts those fears to bed.

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2 replies

  1. The linked FY-2016 Budget is not complete.

    The City of San Diego leaves out the majority of the $1.7 Billion in Cash Reserve Fund Balances identified in the FY-2015 CAFR. Pages 174-175.

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