OCEAN BEACH, CA. On Wednesday, November 5, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the closure of 7 libraries – including the Ocean Beach branch – and 9 rec centers and a gym, as part of his new budget cuts. These slashes, as well as cuts to the police department and fire and rescue departments, a supposed 10% across the board cut in all City departments, are all alleged to make up the city’s $43 Million deficit, and more. All budget cuts have to be approved by the City Council.
The other libraries chosen to be shut down include:University Community, University Heights, Mountain View/Beckwourth, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Clairemont and Allied Gardens/Benjamin. In all, the libraries will have to eliminate 34 staff positions.
Sanders chose the following Recreation centers for closure: Penn, Adams, Azalia, Cabrillo, Cadman, Tecolote, Stockton, Presidio and Lopez Ridge, plus the Black Mountain gym.
Jay Goldstone, the city’s chief operating officer, stated that the libraries and recreation centers chosen to be closed were the ones “least used.” The Mayor added that one library per each council district was chosen to be closed, except district 8, which only has three libraries. These public facilities – the libraries and recreation centers – are only technically, temporarily closed, and the city will review their status in 2010, but Sanders said he sees them as closed for the foreseeable future.
Waterfront fire rings will be reduced, and the assistant parks and recreation center position has been cut, along with 49 other positions.
For additional info, see the remainder of Elizabeth Malloy’s San Diego Daily Transcript article from Wednesday, November 5, 2008:
The city’s customer service department will be eliminated too. And despite Sanders’ promises throughout his term to not make cuts to public safety, police and fire will have to shoulder the burden as well.
The fire department will reduce the number of crews on duty on a revolving basis and cut one academy per year. The police department will cut its academy classes by half. Both departments will cut civilian personnel.
“We have no low hanging fruit, no slush funds that we’ve squirreled away,” Sanders told reporters, explaining that there were no easy cuts left for the city. “Instead we have something that will serve us better over the long haul: Our ability to identify reforms that value efficiencies, cost savings and transparency.”
City Hall has cut staff as well, including four of its seven deputy chief officers, which is a high-ranking position. The mayor’s office is reducing its budget by 15 percent, and Sanders is cutting three members of his staff. “I’ll be getting by without some valuable, hard working people,” Sanders said. “I’m calling attention to these executive layer cuts because it’s important for the mayor to lead by example.”
Sanders said he asked other city departments that don’t fall under the mayor to cut their budgets by 10 percent as well.
The mayor first announced the $43 million budget deficit about three weeks ago, and said he has been working with his staff ever since to find ways to close the gap. He said city workers offered about 200 suggestions, and some of those may yet be put into place with more time.
The city has considered making changes to the workweek as other municipalities have done, but Sanders said that would take time because it would involve a meet and confer process with the city unions.
Goldsmith said the suggested cuts would close the city’s $43 million gap, and go a long way toward filling projected gaps in the 2010 fiscal year budget as well.
In total, the San Diego Police Department will see $8.3 million in cuts, including cuts to the academy classes, 37 civilian positions, and a reduction in new equipment, permitted it doesn’t put officers in danger.
The fire department will see a $4 million reduction. This would largely be accomplished by cutting the number of engine and truck companies on duty by two. This would be on a rotating basis, essentially having the fire department always act as it does when one company is responding to a large emergency.
Both Police Chief William Lansdowne and Fire Chief Tracy Jarman were present at the mayor’s press conference and said they supported his cuts. Lansdowne said despite the decrease in training new recruits, he doesn’t expect the number of the city’s uniformed officers patrolling the streets to go down.
There was not yet a plan in place to sell the buildings.
Sanders said he still does not want to raise taxes, but if citizens decide they can no longer take the cuts and want to put a tax hike on the ballot, he would listen.
The deficit has largely been caused because costs are going up, while revenue from sales and property taxes are going down. Sanders pointed out that other cities are going through similar or worse situations. For example, Phoenix, which is comparable to San Diego in size, is facing a $200 million budget deficit.
“We’re in better shape than a lot of cities,” he said. “We’re in better shape than the state.”