• Adding eight operating hours per week to every branch library and five hours to every recreation center
• Investing $130 million into road and other infrastructural repairs
• Increasing police academies to 120 cadets and holding the first firefighter academies since 2009, adding 60 firefighter recruits
• Restoring three lifeguard positions to improve beach safety
• Fully funding beach and bay firepits
• Supporting an economic development program to create, attract and retain jobs and businesses
• Funding to complete the Security and Exchange Commission’s final reform recommendation and close the book on San Diego’s troubled financial past
People have asked me how this good news is possible given several years of deep cuts because of the recession and past fiscal mismanagement. It was not long ago the city planned to shut down core services like the Ocean Beach Branch Library and Cabrillo Recreation Center — a shortsighted proposal against which I joined hundreds of neighbors to permanently quash.
The simple answer is that we made tough and necessary decisions that put San Diego at the forefront of financial reform. Fiscal discipline and an improving economy are paying off. As cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco faced massive budget deficits this year ($238 million and $263 million, respectively), San Diego is positioned to begin reinvesting taxpayer dollars in its neighborhoods.
Since I was elected more than six years ago, I have worked with Mayor Jerry Sanders to bring to City Hall the same budget principles San Diego families and businesses practice every day. The city’s budget crisis unfolded over several years, and solutions were not created overnight. The cost-saving tools we used to create this budget are possible thanks to reform efforts we San Diegans began years ago.
In 2006, voters approved a ballot measure to unleash the power of competition between the private sector and government employees. The managed competition process is now producing $6 million in ongoing savings — with more to come. In 2008, voters ushered in a new, accountable system of city government by creating the independent Office of the City Auditor. This taxpayer watchdog has identified over $33 million in opportunities to increase revenues and decrease costs.
At City Hall, I’ve proudly guarded San Diego’s tax dollars. Last year’s landmark retirement health care reform plan will produce more than $800 million in savings over the next 25 years. And a six percent compensation reduction for city employees has reduced costs by millions of dollars.
These victories have been hard fought, and we are not done. We must implement comprehensive pension reform, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters on June 5, to begin reducing the city’s $2.2 billion unfunded pension liability. We must double our efforts to repair San Diego’s roads by improving coordination and communication between city departments, as well as increase efficiencies to award repaving projects to contractors in a timely manner. We must continue to eliminate waste, cut red tape and restore more city services.
Our work is not complete, but this budget reflects that we are on the right path. I am confident that together, through continued fiscal reforms, we will carry on delivering results for our neighborhoods that improve the quality of life for all San Diegans.
— Council President Pro Tem Kevin L. Faulconer represents District 2 of the City Council, including Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Mission Bay.