Gloria offers increasing general spending as municipal taps revived revenue, federal aid

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is proposing to spend a lot more money on parks, arts, reducing the homeless, improving the quality of life and more, with more services being provided faster.

Gloria’s proposed budget unveiled on April 15 covers the new fiscal year beginning on July 1. This will increase municipal spending in virtually all areas, from graffiti reduction to large infrastructure projects. The city’s annual operating budget will jump 8.6 percent, from $ 1.74 billion to $ 1.89 billion.

The city has enough money to cover such increases and avoid any budget cuts because it revived tax revenues – especially sales taxes – and $ 180 million with the help of a federal epidemic left over from the $ 300 million San Diego received last spring.

Another factor is the contraction of the city’s annual pension payment of $ 31 million due to strong returns in the stock market in 2020. Gloria also offers to defer $ 30 million in planned deposits to municipal reserves.

Gloria characterized his budget as a “Hebrew” spending plan that San Diego residents allowed by immunization against COVID-19 and persisted in the plague.

“What we want to achieve with this budget is to start moving from a kind of responsive and crisis-oriented approach to a much more stable and service-minded approach and able to meet the expectations and needs of our residents and neighborhoods. Our city,” the mayor said.

The budget makes modest and cumulative increases for a wide variety of programs and initiatives. They include policing of holiday apartments, weeding, disinfecting sidewalks, damaging abandoned cars and increasing security in libraries.

“These are relatively modest things, but I think those are things that San Diego will notice in their daily lives,” Gloria said.

The budget will also increase aid to small businesses, expand free broadband access in low-income areas, fund aggressive enforcement of scooter regulations and add new parking enforcement teams to help evacuate spaces in key areas.

On traffic, the budget will spend $ 300,000 to create a new management center where city officials can view intersections and immediately replace stop traffic lights to ease congestion.

It will spend $ 550,000 to create a new staff that will replace outdated and often dysfunctional signal loops – sidewalk spots near traffic lights that turn on the lights when a car turns them on.

Funding for the arts will increase from $ 9.6 million to $ 12.7 million. And the city will spend $ 4.3 million on strengthening parks with more recruitment, better training, new grant writers and the conversion of many part-time workers to full-time jobs.

The proposed spending is part of the $ 77.7 million the mayor says he wants to spend on “critical operational needs.”

The budget will look much different without vaccines and federal epidemic assistance, Gloria said.

“We will talk about significant, drastic and draconian cuts,” he said.

“What we want to achieve with this budget is to start moving from a kind of responsive and crisis-oriented approach to a much more stable and service-oriented approach.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria

Gloria said he delayed planned reserve donations in part because it could jeopardize federal aid to the epidemic. If a city can afford to increase its reserves, it is difficult to justify the need for such assistance.

But it’s also because “we need to invest as much money in services as possible because that’s what San Diego needs now to get through this transition period,” Gloria said. “My promise to San Diego is that every nickel entrusted to us will be used for the benefit of the people and neighborhoods we serve.”

The city’s general fund reserve will remain at $ 205 million at Gloria’s proposal, about 11% of the proposed $ 1.89 billion budget. Urban reserves may be crucial if there is an economic recession.

The budget includes $ 13.3 million to cover expected salary increases for police officers, firefighters and lifeguards, plus targeted increases for other jobs where workers earn far less than their counterparts in other cities.

Nearly 1,800 municipal jobs, about 15% of the city’s 11,940 budgeted jobs, are vacant. City officials say it is mainly because of uncompetitive salaries.

Most city employees are expected to receive salary increases of just over 3% in the fiscal year already budgeted, so the $ 13.3 million will cover larger increases for public safety and targeted workers.

The budget also includes more general expenditure of the fund on infrastructure than in recent years. The municipality will dedicate a record $ 28.4 million in funds from the Clalit Infrastructure Fund as part of Proposal H, a step in the ballot box from 2016.

That money will cover $ 16 million for park upgrades, $ 7 million for sidewalks and $ 2 million for fire stations.

Gloria is offering an additional $ 29.7 million in Clalit Fund funds that will cover flood prevention and resilience and efforts to reduce stormwater pollution.

These infrastructure expenses will be in addition to a separate capital improvement budget of $ 809 million. Most of the money from this budget comes from gas tax revenues, grants and other sources.

Municipal spending on homeless prevention will increase from $ 49 million to $ 63 million according to Gloria’s proposal, with the extra money spent mainly on new shelter beds that have already been announced and stronger coordination of outreach efforts on the street.

Homeless money will remain about $ 20 million from the city and about $ 3 million from the federal government, but the state’s contribution will increase sharply from $ 24.5 million to $ 39.5 million – which is responsible for the annual increase in local spending.

While Gloria offers to increase police funding in certain areas, including overtime, the police budget will actually be reduced from $ 593.3 million to $ 584.2 million due to savings created as a result of ongoing pension changes in the city.

Revenue growth plays a key role in financing the proposed new expenditure. Strong home sales are expected to raise property taxes during the new fiscal year from $ 672 million to $ 700 million, while sales tax revenues are expected to rise from $ 321 million to $ 369 million.

Hotel taxes, the most severely affected revenue stream from the epidemic, have returned to 2019 levels and are expected to rise by 37 percent in the new fiscal year. But they are still far below where they expected to grow before the plague.

San Diego is expected to use $ 120 million from federal epidemic assistance during the ongoing budget year, leaving $ 180 million. Gloria offers to spend $ 124 million in the new budget year and the remaining $ 56 million in fiscal year 2024. ◆

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