SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Todd Gloria will present his proposed $4.6 billion budget to the San Diego City Council Tuesday with the intent on highlighting nonprofit and small business loans, building “sexy” streets, reducing police overtime, investing in the city’s Climate Equity Fund and a focus on supporting the San Diego Convention Center.
His intention is to jumpstart the city’s economy and pave a path for an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“My Back to Work SD budget prioritizes an equitable recovery from the impacts of the pandemic while setting the foundation of a brighter future for all of us,” Gloria said at a news conference in front of a Mexican restaurant in City Heights hard hit by the pandemic.
“Despite a structural budget deficit inherited from the previous administration, we took a pragmatic approach to balancing this budget while protecting core services and investing in the people who have suffered the most throughout this past year,” he added.
The budget could be contentious. Last year, when then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed his budget in the heart of COVID-19 lockdowns, one council meeting nearly totaled 12 hours — largely as a result of hundreds of public callers and more than 4,000 emails demanding the council not only reject the mayor’s proposed $27 million increase to the San Diego Police Department but cut the existing budget dramatically.
Despite the massive public comment, the council passed the budget and the uptick in police spending 8-1.
Gloria has proposed a $19 million increase to SDPD’s budget for this year’s budget cycle, but the political calculus could be very different from 2020.
While the city council is legally nonpartisan under state law, a 6-3 advantage leaning toward Democrats last year is now 8-1 with only Councilman Chris Cate representing Republicans.
Cate, chair of the council’s Budget & Government Efficiency Committee, has set public hearings on the budget from May 5-11.
“I have always been transparent with the residents in my district regarding the city’s finances, and as budget chair, I plan to do the same, city- wide,” he said. “We need to be fiscally prudent and focus on core city services for our residents. I look forward to working with everyone to build a budget that will be reflective of all San Diegans.”
The city has increased police spending for 10 consecutive years and is poised to make it 11 should Gloria’s proposed budget pass.
His budget mostly focuses on the Back to Work SD plan Gloria developed during his campaign that serves as a framework to help San Diegans devastated by COVID-19 and equip them for a brighter future.
“Mayor Gloria’s budget proposal looks to the future without losing sight of the issues in San Diego that need to be addressed today,” said Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego. “I applaud the mayor’s priorities, including investments in our hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits, strategies to end homelessness, the city’s climate change plan and services to help San Diegans get to work and create opportunities for children and families.”
Major money items in the budget include:
— $10 million in nonprofit and small business loans in hard-hit industries and owned by people of color;
— $10.2 million to support the convention center, intended to maintain good-paying jobs and keep San Diego poised for its tourism economy to rebound;
— $10 million to build quality, complete “sexy” streets in communities of concern, with another $30 million planned to come from debt service;
— Investing $22.1 million in the city’s workforce to make their salaries more competitive with other local agencies;
— More than $10 million for immediate actions to serve those in crisis on the streets, and funding to support the new Homelessness Strategies Department to ensure the city is setup to be successful in its efforts to end homelessness;
— $4 million in proposed savings with across-the-board decreases to San Diego Police Department overtime;
— Investing $5 million into the new Climate Equity Fund; and
— Adjusting library hours to a Tuesday through Saturday schedule as the city reopens to save $6.9 million, while investing $1.25 million in e- materials and virtual hours.
The city faced an expected budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year of $124 million — a figure that exceeds the entire Parks and Recreation Department annual budget.
Last month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, allocating approximately $306 million in federal relief to the City of San Diego, which Gloria proposed to use to strengthen the local economy and stabilize city finances.
“I proudly supported the American Rescue Plan because it provides the resources our cities need as we begin the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California. “Federal support for local programs and projects will be key to a swift and equitable recovery. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, San Diego can make strategic investments to build back stronger.”
The $4.6 billion budget proposal recommends spending levels for city operations and capital projects for Fiscal Year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The final budget will be adopted in June following several weeks of review by the public and the City Council.
The full budget proposal can be found at www.sandiego.gov/finance/proposed.