San Diego Mayor Presents $5.65 Billion Budget to City Council to Mixed Reviews

San Diego Mayor Presents $5.65 Billion Budget to City Council to Mixed Reviews

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at an event in San Diego on November 26, 2021. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

4/23/2024

Updated: 4/23/2024

SAN DIEGO—Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposed $5.65 billion budget for fiscal year 2025 received mixed reviews April 22 from the San Diego City Council, following a public presentation at City Hall.
The budget, Mr. Gloria says, is focused on continuing city improvements and avoiding major service losses amid a difficult economic time.
“This proposed budget is on-time, balanced and will continue the business of moving San Diego forward,” Mr. Gloria said earlier this month. “With revenue down and costs rising, we had to make difficult choices in order to sustain funding for key priorities: addressing homelessness and building more housing; fixing roads and other critical infrastructure; and keeping you safe.
“We were able to avoid the most dire cuts by using one-time measures we cannot responsibly repeat next year, so a major part of this process will be how we reckon with our structural deficit.”
However, many members of the public and several city councilmembers believed where the budget did make cuts was a mistake.
“This proposal pains me,” said Councilman Henry Foster III, who was sworn in last month to fill the empty District 4 seat. “Inequity does come with a price tag.”
Mr. Foster said budget cuts and not actively investing in items like the Climate Equity Fund and Cannabis Equity Program would have negative impacts on less affluent residents of the city.
“It is my hope that Mayor Gloria will truly prepare an equity lens as he prepares for the May revise,” he said.
The proposed budget represents a 9.1% increase over FY 2023’s $5.12 billion budget, even as Mr. Gloria touted cuts to primarily non-personnel expenses from department budgets.
The city’s Independent Budget Analyst, Charles Modica, said that while the proposed budget might not have what everyone is looking for, it is balanced and “reflects the city’s precarious position,” as it looks forward.
According to Mr. Modica, the cuts proposed this year are planned as one- time slashes to the budget, but next year may see more significant, permanent cuts unless San Diego can secure another source of revenue—such as a proposed 1-cent sales tax and an increased stormwater fee, both of which are pending City Council Committee approval for November ballots.
“Revenue from one or both of these will be necessary for the city to maintain its current level of programs and services,” Mr. Modica said.
The proposed budget increases funding to address homelessness by $26.6 million, a fact appreciated by Councilman Stephen Whitburn, who represents Downtown.
Among those projects allocated for is the proposal to turn H Barracks, the city-owned former Navy land adjacent to the San Diego International Airport, into roughly 200 spaces to the city’s Safe Parking Program—nearly doubling the capacity of the program.
Another allocation is for the proposed 1,000-bed shelter located at Kettner Boulevard and Vine Street in Middletown—which is far from being a done deal, as council committees have taken it for review.
For infrastructure, Mr. Gloria’s budget earmarks $104.6 million for street resurfacing construction and design, intended to increase the number of miles of major street resurfacing from 60 budgeted in the current fiscal year to 75 in FY 2025 and funds the design and planning needed to complete 105 miles in FY 2026, a statement from the mayor’s office reads.
The proposed budget also includes $85.1 million in funds for flood control and green infrastructure projects.
Mr. Gloria announced he would make only minimal reductions to the budgets of the San Diego Police and Fire-Rescue departments to preserve existing service levels, but some of those cuts include reducing the size and scope of their respective academies, a fact that concerned Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert.
However, with the expected $136.8 million shortfall San Diego is facing this year, cuts are coming to parts of city government, such as: eliminating funding for the Office of Immigrant Affairs, reabsorbing the Community Equity Fund into the general fund budget and suspending contributions to the city’s reserves for one year, among other cuts.
Council President Sean Elo-Rivera described cuts to equity programs from people “who have been starved for decades,” as inherently unjust.
“I don’t see our progress being protected,” he said, before telling the mayor’s staff he would appreciate a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer to find reductions in the budget with an eye toward equity.
Councilman Joe LaCava said that while the budget “aligned with my budget philosophy,” it was not an easy decision and left him wondering how to keep the equity programs.
“Funding these programs means cuts, perhaps painful cuts, elsewhere,” he said, before reminding those in attendance there was much more dealmaking and negotiating to come.
“Today is not the end, but only the start of the budget review process,” Mr. LaCava said.
Following Monday’s presentation, the city will host department level public hearings leading up to the release of a revised budget on May 14 that incorporates City Council and community feedback.
Final consideration by the City Council will take place in mid-June, with adoption of an appropriation ordinance due no later than June 30.
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