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The mayor listens to you! And he talks budget deficit with reporters

March 24, 2009 - 11:43 am

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders updated reporters today on the city’s dire budget picture: With revenues off $16.3 million (including a $7 million drop in tourism taxes), the City Council and the mayor will have to find $60 million to close the deficit in the 2010 budget. Despite that gap, Sanders said he hopes to avoid making any service cuts, including protecting libraries and parks and recreation services. Instead, he hopes to win substantial concessions from the city’s five labor unions, all of which are negotiating new deals with the city right now.

I asked Sanders if he hoped to get the whole $60 million from labor.

“No. We do want to get a good portion of that from labor, but not all,” he said.

Details of the rest of Sanders’ budget will be released on April 13, but he indicated that some of it will come from raising fees, like the $2 million in increases and efficiencies proposed recently by the Fire-Rescue Department. He also said his team got a lot of ideas from listening to you, the humble San Diego citizen.

“Councilmember [Tony] Young gave me a list of a lot of ideas, ” Sanders said, referring to the feedback Young, chair of the City Council’s Budget Committee, has gathered at hearings throughout the city. “We got a lot of those ideas from our website. We’ve used a lot of those ideas—we haven’t use them all. Some of them don’t make sense from the city’s financial perspective, but some of them made a lot of sense.”

Sanders also took a minute to discuss the city’s looming pension deficit of roughly $2.25 billion. He said the plan for 2010  is to make a $150-million payment, but that the 2011 payment could be “a lot higher than that.” A lot will depend on how the markets behave and what value the actuaries set on the pension and its assets in May. Sanders said that would still be early enough to revise the budget if necessary. So stay tuned—this could get worse before it gets better.

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