San Diego mayor’s proposed budget includes millions more to address homelessness and street paving
The spending plan is focused on core services and would boost the city’s general fund past $2 billion for the first time.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria unveiled a proposed budget April 14 that would increase spending on anti-homelessness efforts, litter removal, street paving, enhanced internet access in low-income areas and more.
The budget plan, which covers the 2023-24 fiscal year that starts July 1, would elevate the city’s general fund above $2 billion for the first time — a nearly 5 percent increase made possible by surging tax revenue.
Other sources of money allowing the city to cover new spending — and prevent any cuts or layoffs — are $52.1 million in remaining federal COVID-19 pandemic aid and $67 million in projected surplus revenue during the current fiscal year.
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City priorities that would receive more funding include animal control, arts, pedestrian safety, security at library branches and helping low-income neighborhoods withstand climate change.
The budget also would bolster the city’s Personnel and Human Resources departments to help fill several hundred jobs that have been vacant for years. Those vacancies have been blamed for poor customer service.
The new spending would come despite San Diego having to make the largest annual pension payment in city history — $448 million.
The city would free up some money for new spending by making smaller contributions to emergency reserves than previously planned.
Gloria said his budget focuses on core services such as streets and public safety and limits spending increases to the highest priorities.
“This is a budget about getting things done,” Gloria said. “We are making a methodical effort to hold the line on expenditures.”
One area where spending would surge is homelessness programs, where city funding would increase from $29 million to $46.8 million.
Part of the increase would make up for shrinking state homelessness aid. But overall spending on homelessness in the city would increase from $63 million to $81.7 million.
The increase includes $5 million to boost shelter beds and safe-sleeping options. Other programs slated for enhanced funding include street outreach, rapid rehousing and safe parking.
“Homelessness is the No. 1 issue the city is facing, and that’s why it’s an area where there is a significant increase,” Gloria said.
This also is the first city budget to focus on eliminating disparities between affluent and poor neighborhoods in a formal way.
Aiming to reduce disparities between rich and poor areas, San Diego injects social equity into budget process
The city is adding equity-centered coaches, new software, training for decision-makers and a 40-page equity guide.
City officials say every expenditure was analyzed with a focus on social equity and how the expenditure could affect particular neighborhoods or demographic groups.
Spending focused on equity includes $600,000 for free mobile hot spots at library branches, $900,000 for free broadband in low-income areas and $100,000 for a plan to boost political and social engagement in those areas.
The budget also includes $9.2 million for the city’s climate equity fund, which covers preparations for climate change in low-income neighborhoods.
Gloria said shifts in spending based on equity are relatively modest in this spending plan compared with what should be expected in coming years.
“It’s Year 1 of a multi-year project to address a complex problem,” he said. “These are the first steps.”
The mayor also said equity played a key factor in a companion budget for capital improvement projects such as new parks, paving projects and other infrastructure. The city recently added social equity to a list of factors that officials use to prioritize capital projects.
The overall capital improvement projects budget would shrink by 22 percent in the mayor’s proposed budget, from $834 million to $648 million.
Officials said that’s primarily because so much money was devoted in the current budget to the city’s Pure Water sewage recycling system, which is under construction in multiple neighborhoods.
Money devoted to street repairs, including repaving and less-ambitious slurry seals, would more than double in the proposed budget, from $53.5 million to $139.9 million.
New spending in the proposed budget would have been much smaller had it not been for a significant recovery of city revenue, which city finance officials expect to continue during the new fiscal year.
Property tax revenue is projected to rise from $706.2 million to $756.9 million, hotel tax is expected to climb from $135.2 million to $168 million, and sales tax is anticipated to increase from $380.2 million to $392.2 million.
The hotel tax estimate assumes inflation will continue to boost room rates and that the recovery of international travel from pandemic lows will accelerate, city finance officials said.
Estimates that sales tax will grow by only 3 percent are based on expectations of some sort of economic slowdown in the new fiscal year, officials said. But the estimates don’t anticipate a more significant slowdown or recession.
The budget proposes spending the last $52 million of $300 million in federal pandemic aid the city received in 2021. The city spent $100 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year and is projected to spend $147 million in the current one.
Gloria plans to present the proposed budget to the City Council on Monday, April 24.
The council’s Budget Review Committee is scheduled to begin hearings on individual department budgets on Wednesday, May 3. The council typically adopts a final budget in mid-June.
The new budget includes $1.4 million for “hot spot” litter removal crews and $300,000 for a citywide pedestrian safety study.
It also would boost arts funding by $1 million, to $15.3 million, and provide $900,000 for enhanced security at library branches.
The city’s contract for animal-control services with the San Diego Humane Society would jump by $3.8 million, to $18 million, in the proposed budget. The city’s five-year contract with the nonprofit expired recently, and no other providers expressed interest in taking over.
The budget proposal also includes $2.2 million to add 21 civilian employees to the Police Department, including 11 police investigative service officers. A lack of civilian workers has been blamed for officers working more overtime and having to perform lower-level administrative work.
Rash of civilian vacancies at SDPD is swelling overtime and causing uniformed officers to do lower-level work
Police chief says the department needs ‘civilianization,’ and labor leaders say large raises are necessary to fill the jobs.
The Police Department’s budget is slated to increase from $594.1 million to $622.3 million.
The budget also includes $38 million to cover already-negotiated pay raises for firefighters and police officers that take effect during the new fiscal year, along with pay raises for other employees that are anticipated to result from ongoing labor negotiations.
View Gloria’s entire proposed budget at sandiego.gov/finance/proposed.