SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Council's Budget Committee Wednesday directed the City Attorney's Office to draft legislation to require the mayor to appear before the panel several times during the year to discuss spending revisions.
Right now, the only influence council members have over the budget is when the spending plan is adopted in June, and once during the fiscal year when the mayor proposes mid-year revisions that are based on revenue and expenditure trends.
The council has been seeking more authority over the budget process in the past year, and vigorously lobbied the mayor's office in recent months to include its priorities -- often successfully.
However, the council has chafed under its inability to make changes to the spending plan once the fiscal year is already under way, in case a need arises. That became a major issue this year when a policy that takes eight fire engines offline to save money increased response times to emergencies.
Deputy City Attorney Brant Will opined that the council does have the authority to adopt an ordinance to require the mayor to appear before the panel more than once per year, though he cautioned against abusing the privilege since it would impinge on the mayor's authority under the current system of government.
While the council members can call the mayor before them, it remains his prerogative to recommend the budgetary changes that should be made if the original projections of revenues and spending don't match what is actually happening, Will said.
He said that doesn't preclude the council from lobbying the mayor with its own ideas.
"It will give us a little more leverage" on spending decisions involving city services, Councilwoman Marti Emerald said.
Chief Financial Officer Mary Lewis told committee members it would not be prudent to bring the mayor before them too early in the fiscal year, because early data on actual fiscal performance might not present an accurate picture.
The mayor's office otherwise had no comment.
In its unanimous vote, the committee members instructed the City Attorney's Office to consult with them, the mayor and the Independent Budget Analyst when drafting a proposed law.