SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A proposal by Mayor Jerry Sanders to cut library and recreation center hours in half to save money received no support from the City Council during a budget review hearing Thursday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, these proposed cuts will not stand," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said. "The library, all the branch libraries, are the fabric of our city."
Faulconer earlier spoke out against the mayor's proposed reductions in the Parks and Recreation Department budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
For current service hours to be continued, the City Council will have to come up with more than $10 million, but members expressed confidence they would be able to do so with the options at their disposal. Those include including increasing expected revenues by $3 million, using money from the sale of a downtown building to pay for convention center expansion debt to free up
$2.5 million of cash in the general fund, and reducing funding for workers compensation claims by $1.4 million.
When the budget review hearings began Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone urged the City Council to proceed with caution and not use fixes that could increase the following fiscal year's shortfall -- already pegged at $41 million.
Faulconer said the library system receives 26,000 visitors daily, who check out 28,000 items, and 1,000 people attend special programs.
"People love our libraries, people use our libraries," Faulconer said.
Libraries Director Deborah Barrow said she has lost nearly one-third of her employees to budget cuts since 2007 even though use of the facilities is up.
Councilman Carl DeMaio said the mayor's budget proposal was "penny-wise and pound-foolish" because it removes safe havens for youth. It also saves top executives at the expense of "front line" employees, he said.
The mayor envisions reducing the equivalent of at least 76 full-time positions in both the Library and Parks and Recreation Departments. According to Barrow, 75 of the jobs will be cut at branches, not the Central Library.
Stacey LoMedico, the director of Parks and Recreation, told the council members that the budget cuts threaten aquatic programs, beach fire rings, lawn-mowing, trail maintenance and after-school programs.
The San Diego City Council is scheduled to take up the controversial issue of short-term vacation rentals on Monday. The council is expected to vote on Mayor Faulconer's proposal, which was introduced last month.
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