Mayor’s $3B spending plan includes libraries, infrastructure

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SAN DIEGO — A nearly $3 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year in the city of San Diego will add funding for infrastructure and public safety, and continue to restore neighborhood services, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Monday.

The $2.97 billion proposed budget will be formally presented on Tuesday to the City Council, which in the next couple of months will vet spending planned for the various departments. The council will need to sign off on the budget in June for it to take effect July 1.

Kevin Faulconer in his officeFaulconer said the budget calls for spending nearly $298 million on capital improvement projects like water and sewer facilities, construction projects and transportation improvements. The plan also includes debt service on a $120 million bond, should it survive a court challenge.

“Through a combination of cash and bond funding, San Diego roads, street lights, fire stations and storm drains are getting a major shot in the arm,” Faulconer said. “In fact, more than 50 percent of growth from our major revenue sources are going to infrastructure.”

San Diego has a backlog of infrastructure projects estimated at more than $1 billion. Councilman Mark Kersey, who chairs the City Council’s Infrastructure Committee, said the city needs the general fund spending envisioned in Faulconer’s proposal to have a shot at catching up.

“It is important that these steps are taken not only in this year’s budget, but for many years to come,” Kersey said. “Infrastructure is, by its nature, a long-term investment — so we must take a long-term approach.”

The budget proposal also includes funding to increase the number of recruits in four police academies from 34 to 43; $3.2 million in a program to maintain the current San Diego police force; and enough money to hire 17 civilian SDPD employees.

The city would also fund three academies for firefighters instead of one and pay for construction of a temporary fire station in the Skyline neighborhood, where response times tend to be slow.

Other proposals include:

— adding five hours per week for the Central Library and four extra hours a week at the branch libraries, with the addition of 16 employees;

— creating an after-school program at libraries in neighborhoods where schools have low standardized test scores;

— funding long-overdue updates to community plans;

— adding staffing to operate new park and recreation facilities;

— purchasing cameras that police officers wear on their uniforms to record their interactions with the public;

— hiring an employee to oversee open data policies; and

— paying for the homeless adult shelter during the cold weather months.

“What excites me most in this budget is it includes funding to better address homelessness, with results-oriented programs we know get people off the streets,” council President Todd Gloria said.

Among them are a facility where the homeless can take showers and make telephone calls, another place where they can store their belongings while they look for work or keep medical appointments, and creating a digital management system.

Gloria is also chairman of the panel’s Budget Committee and will lead the review of the spending proposal beginning May 5. He encouraged the public to comment on the spending plan and provide input at the budget hearings.

Mary Lewis, the city’s chief financial officer, said the overall budget is 6.2 percent higher than the current year and has a 14 percent reserve. The general fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and recreation centers, is $1.2 billion, she said.

Revenues from sales, property and hotel room taxes should continue moderate growth, according to Lewis.

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