There will be Town Hall Meeting in Ocean Beach tomorrow – April 20th – on the FY10 budget. This is your opportunity to get an overview by the Mayor’s staff on his proposed budget and ask questions! The meeting is 6:00 pm- 7:15 pm at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center, 4726 Santa Monica Avenue. Here’s the link to the budget http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/proposed/
The Mayor will be there with the directors of the General Fund departments which include Public Works, Police, Fire-Rescue, Park and Recreation and the Library. If this meeting is structured like the one on Saturday in Todd Gloria’s district , Tony Young, chairman of the Budget and Finance committee, and Councilman Faulkner will also attend. There is no public testimony. You can fill out an index card with a question. The Mayor reads the question, but not necessarily verbatim. If there are personal attacks or if he prefers to sum up the question, he does so and then responds.
I asked two questions at yesterday’s meeting based upon an article about the budget in the U-T http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/apr/14/1m14budget234036-budget-hinges-pay-cuts/?uniontrib.
Will the City pay back the $3.8M of Library System Improvement Program Funds which the mayor is proposing to use to close the budget deficit? If I understood his response correctly, repayment will occur if the new parking fee structure he has requested is approved by the City Council. When this did not occur the first time around last week, he turned to these library funds which were tapped last year to keep the 7 branches from closing. But what if the parking fee structure is not approved? The mayor’s response was not clear on this possibility.
Why should we care? We should care because we are borrowing from Paul to pay Paul. These funds are not a reserve as stated in the U-T. They are capital projects funds which provide a source for branch and main library capital improvements. They are not operational funds. Ocean Beach is one of three libraries on the FY10 Capital Programs list. This list includes Otay East, and Balboa. See page 44 in the link http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/proposed/pdf/vol3/07v3sched10.pdf Ocean Beach and Balboa have been submitted as possible “shovel ready” projects for economic stimulus funds. While Library Program Funds are not sufficient to build or renovate a library, they do provide project management costs and funds for cost overruns. The City needs to reimburse this money and it will never happen unless we make some noise.
The second question I asked was if the hiring freeze will continue into FY10. the Mayor’s response was that department requests to fill vacancies will continue to go through the office of Jay Goldstone, Chief Operating Officer in the Office of the Mayor. So yes, the hiring freeze will continue. And the Mayor is counting on those vacancies to close an undisclosed amount of the budget deficit. If you look at the total staff in the General Fund department budgets, do not assume that the workplace reality equals this number. I am not talking about normal attrition and the amount of time it takes to fill a vacant position. I am talking about the $10.4 million savings in the mid-year budget for FY09. Here’s the report that addresses this issue http://www.sandiego.gov/iba/pdf/09_18.pdf When positions are held vacant, the salary and wage savings are returned to the General Fund from the department’s budget. $10.4M is a whopping big amount of money. An amount this significant generated questions from the Office of Independent Budget Analysis which include: Is the City in a position to fill vacant positions at this time? The IBA also suggests that the Council request information that describes the further impacts to service levels that can be expected.
Whether vacancies can or should be filled and whether there are service impacts when vacancies are not filled are legitimate questions. Keeping positions vacant can be a legitimate and desirable way to avoid laying off employees right now. And you can’t fill vacancies if there is no money to do so. This situation can be resolved in a reasonably straightforward manner by adding a separate entry under vacancy savings in department budgets that reflects anticipated savings generated by the current hiring freeze, the anticipated period in which these savings would occur, the number of positions affected and the impacts on service levels. So the question for the mayor is whether he is willing to provide additional information in his budget on this issue.
A few other words about the Town Hall meetings… The Ocean Beach Community Plan Update is included in the Mayor’s proposed budget. You will see it listed in the presentation. That means you all have opportunities ahead to work on some of the issues raised in the OB Rag blog.
As always, it is interesting to hear the questions other citizens ask, and how questions are answered. Don’t miss it!