The traveling troupe of City officials drew a small crowd to last night’s presentation at Point Loma High School of the City’s upcoming budget dilemma and promotion for Proposition D, the half cent sales tax increase on November’s ballot.
The audience of 27 mainly gray haired people listened solemnly as Chief Operations Officer (aka “City Manager”) Jay Goldstone opened the show. But before his second paragraph former City Attorney Mike Aquirre showed up walking among the audience distributing a faux invoice charging $2.1 billion for the City’s Pension expenses.
The gathering lacked the drama of the first meeting at University City High School on October 18th when the audience started lobbing questions like grenades. Last nights fete did not provide for dialogue, no open questions were taken from the audience and none were offered. People were invited to submit questions on an index card provided by staff.
After a series of boring PowerPoint presentations from five department heads; Police, Fire, Parks, Library and General Services (Streets), Goldstone provided answers to the index cards. It seemed he didn’t have time to answer all the questions; time limits.
In a nutshell, Police and Fire are slated for a cut of a little over 6 % while the other departments, including a few departments not represented, are facing a 23.7% reduction of their General Fund monies. For example Parks proposes cutting 191 FTE”s (full time equivalents) and closing all city pools, reducing or eliminating recreation centers, reduced maintenance at City parks. Fire rings would also be removed. With the long list of closures and reductions it was less clear what the Parks department was going to actually do with the remaining 614 FTE’s.
The push of course was for Proposition D. The tone was draconian, the death of a thousand cuts final blow should Prop. D not pass. Goldstone though had difficulty explaining why, in the face of these drastic cuts, the city was holding the budgeted reserve at 7%, “after all we did hope to increase it 7.5% to enhance the city’s credit rating.” The reserve, monies held back for a rainy day, amounts to about one-third of potential Prop D taxes.
One tough question, “Why are you building a new central library while cutting and closing libraries?” Answer: “the new library is being built without General Fund money.”
The money Goldstone was referring to comes from the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC). Called “tax-increments” in truth it’s simply property tax revenues. Over the last 38 years CCDC has enriched the downtown because increases in property values and the resulting increase in property taxes are not shared.
Consider publically financed Petco Park and the surrounding improvements. The additional property taxes assessed on those properties is reserved for the downtown only; nothing to the rest of the city, nothing to city schools. For what the citizens in the city’s neighborhoods spends downtown stays downtown. The big news is the debt service for Petco Park is now being paid by CCDC.