S.D. city council votes; libraries stay open for now


The San Diego City Council voted today to temporarily keep open seven libraries and nine recreation centers Mayor Jerry Sanders sought to close to help reduce a $43 million mid-year spending shortfall.

The City Council voted 6-1 in favor of a recommendation by Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin to defer closing the libraries and recreation centers for six months while other options are studied.

The vote will be finalized during a meeting next Monday.

“Libraries are an essential service of this city,’’ Councilman Kevin Faulconer testified before the vote. “They are so important to our neighborhoods, to our families.’’

Councilman Jim Madaffer cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilman Ben Hueso was absent.

Anticipating future budget deficits, Madaffer told his colleagues keeping the libraries and recreation centers open meant the city was merely “kicking the can down the road.’’

“Just like a family that has to cut back on expenses, that’s pretty much what the city is facing right now too,’’ he said.

The City Council also rejected the portion of Sanders’ proposal that would have trimmed the number of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department companies active on any given day from 60 to 58.

Councilman Tony Young said fire-rescue department cuts would impact public safety.

“I don’t want to be in a position of playing with peoples’ lives in my district, or any other district for that matter,’’ Young said.

To pay for what was restored, the City Council recommended the mayor’s office tap library improvement and surplus hotel tax revenue funds.

In total, the City Council restored about $6.2 million in cuts sought by Sanders to close the budget deficit.

Sanders said he was “extremely disappointed’’ with the City Council.

“They refused to make any difficult decisions and instead took from reserves to restore programs,’’ Sanders said.

Despite that, Sanders said he won’t veto the council’s actions.

Sanders said the council’s refusal to cut libraries and recreation centers will instead compound expected future deficits.

Today’s council actions will increase the city’s projected $44 million spending shortfall for next year to $54 million, Sanders said.

“There will be no magic next time around’’ Sanders said. “There will be no more reserves for the council to take and they will finally have to make tough decisions.’’

While libraries and recreation centers were spared, the City Council did approve the bulk of Sanders’ requested cuts.

Six customer service centers in San Diego will be closed. Each City Council district budget will be trimmed by 10 percent, as will the city clerk’s. The mayor’s office will absorb a 15 percent cut.

The number of recruits at police academies will be reduced and fees for the city’s Junior Lifeguard program will be increased.

The Office of Ethics and Integrity will be eliminated, four of seven deputy chief operating officers will lose their jobs and the number of civilians in the San Diego Police Department’s administrative staff will be cut, as will community service officers.

Concrete fire pits at San Diego’s beaches will also be removed unless new funds are uncovered.

The mid-year cuts are needed to address a drop in municipal revenues stemming from declining property, sales and hotel room taxes amid the slumping national economy.