By JOE BRITTON
City News Service
Prompt action is needed to begin chipping away at San Diego's projected $179 million spending shortfall next fiscal year, Mayor Jerry Sanders told a City Council committee Wednesday before his staff announced plans for implementing what are expected to be deep mid-year budget cuts.
"With every tough decision comes a temptation to procrastinate," Sanders told the Budget and Finance Committee.
"It's human nature to hope that a crisis, if given enough time, may cure itself ...," he said. "But hope is not a strategy and false hopes, which distract our attention and delay our decisions, will only exacerbate the problems we have."
The next fiscal year doesn't begin until July 1. However, Sanders said that by implementing mid-year budget cuts by Jan. 1 for this fiscal year, San Diego would realize $60 million in savings that could be applied to the fiscal year 2011 deficit.
"The sooner we make these cuts the fewer cuts we will have to make," he told the committee.
Mary Lewis, the city's chief financial officer, outlined an accelerated timeline to implement the mid-year budget cuts.
On Nov. 24, the mayor's office plans to detail the proposed cuts in a report. On Dec. 2, those cuts will go before the Budget and Finance Committee.
The reductions will then go before the full City Council Dec. 7, which will have until Dec. 14 to finalize them.
Earlier this week, all of the city's departments, including fire and police, were asked to identify by Oct. 30 ways they can cut 27 percent from their discretionary budgets.
The projected budget shortfall in fiscal year 2011 has been blamed on falling sales and property tax revenues and rising pension payments due to investment loses on Wall Street, brought on by the recession.
Sanders has predicted massive budget deficits in San Diego through at least fiscal year 2015.
This fiscal year, the city overcame an $83 million budget shortfall without having to significantly impact services such as parks, libraries, recreation centers and public safety, but given the size of the anticipated coming deficit, Sanders has warned that residents won't be spared the pain this time around.