Mayor proposes budget without deficit - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Mayor proposes budget without deficit

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - What Mayor Jerry Sanders called "unbelievably conservative" budget projections for San Diego's next five fiscal years were released Wednesday, suggesting the city could have a cumulative $119 million in surpluses.

The estimates differ significantly from previous figures put out by the mayor's office.

The budget projections for future years are benefiting from savings from reforms, Sanders said. Hikes of 5 percent each in sales and hotel room tax revenues expected in the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1, were not increased further in the future years, making the estimates "unbelievably conservative," Sanders said.

Sanders expects neither a deficit nor a surplus in the 2013 fiscal year.

That compares to estimates last fall that a deficit could be as high as $31.8 million. Those initial projections did not foresee a surplus until the 2017 fiscal year.

The latest forecast issued today shows surpluses of $2 million in the 2014 fiscal year, $11 million in the 2015 fiscal year, $39 million in the 2016 fiscal year and $67 million in the 2017 fiscal year.

Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said the projections are based on slow and steady economic growth, current service levels and no disasters.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. Read below for an earlier version.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Jerry Sanders Wednesday unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion budget for San Diego's next fiscal year that includes a $1.1 billion general fund and, for the first time in years, no deficit.

"It is because of the savings from our reforms, along with the slow but steady improvement in our economy, that I am able to present to the people of San Diego today a structurally balanced budget that for the first time in decades anticipates authentic and substantial surpluses," Sanders said.

"In this budget, you'll find no service cuts, as in years past," he said. "In fact, this budget includes (more) funding for our libraries, more rec center hours and more police officers."

The proposal also include an academy for prospective firefighters for the first time since 2009, the mayor said.

Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said libraries and recreation centers would be open five hours per week longer than they are currently. The city would also resume weekly mowing of lighted athletic fields, fund maintenance of beach fire pits for the first time in several years, conduct more fire inspections, increase maintenance of facilities and acquire a fire boat and two rescue boats.

Sales and hotel room tax revenues are both expected to increase by 5 percent in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Goldstone said. He said the budget picture was also helped by an $18.1 million reduction in the contribution from the general fund to the pension system.

The spending plan was immediately criticized by Councilman Carl DeMaio, who said the city will actually have a $50 million deficit.

DeMaio, a candidate to succeed Sanders as mayor, said the plan to spend $54 million on infrastructure projects is $29 million short of what is needed. Changes to redevelopment could cost as much as $14.6 million; overtime payments could amount to between $5 million and $10 million, he said.

"I long for the day when I can stand here at this podium and declare San Diego's financial crisis is over," DeMaio said. "Unfortunately, today is not that day."

Aside from his deficit calculation, the city is also hundreds of millions of dollars short of where it should be in providing services to neighborhoods, he said.

DeMaio called the increased library and recreation center hours "token restorations."

Three other council members -- Kevin Faulconer, Todd Gloria and Tony Young -- appeared at the mayor's news conference to support the budget proposal.

Another mayoral candidate, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, said San Diego's finances are stronger than when Sanders first took office, but the city needs a "steady hand at the helm to keep us on track." She has touted her lengthy executive experience in her campaign.

The mayor is scheduled to formally introduce his spending plan to the City Council next Monday and hold a public hearing on May 14. The council's Budget Committee is scheduled to begin reviewing the proposal on May 2.

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