$12M in new spending added to city's $3B budget

SAN DIEGO - Around $12 million in new spending is being added to the city of San Diego's nearly $3 billion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday.

The "May Revise" was brought about by a $7.2 million increase in projected property tax revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1, and an extra $1.4 million in income expected from hotel room taxes, plus some other new money, according to the mayor's office.

The proposed revisions address a top priority for several City Council members -- funding for a program manager who would be in charge of a climate change action plan, which is expected to be approved sometime in the next several months.

Faulconer has proposed spending $200,000 to hire a sustainability program manager, who would oversee the climate change program and other conservation causes being championed by council members, such as a proposal to drastically reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.

Other new expenditures proposed by the mayor include streetlight installation, parks projects, extra support for the San Diego police helicopter, equipment for the fire department and transit plans for Encanto and City Heights.

"Neighborhoods continue to come first in my budget proposal," Faulconer said. "We're installing more streetlights so our neighborhoods are bright and safe, building more parks for our families and giving firefighters and lifeguards more resources to keep us safe."

"Firefighters will see more money for personal protective equipment and emergency operations equipment," Faulconer added.

At Tuesday's news conference, City Heights resident John Jackson watched through a fence as Faulconer announced the city's plans to build a new park on Wightman Street. The community park is one of several new projects that are now possible because of the increase in the city's budget.

"I been over here going on three years and it's been like this since I've been here so it's good that they're cleaning it up," Jackson said.

Residents in City Heights say the new park and streetlights are long overdue. Many are thankful the neighborhood kids will have a fun, safe area to play next summer.

"They're finally building the park and that's pretty cool for the kids, building streetlights to light up the neighborhood so it's safer for people -- that's cool, I like it," Brandon Reed said.

The revision also includes some shifting of funds to create a department that focuses on performance analytics, consolidate the currently decentralized communications staff, and strengthen a fund that pays out legal settlements.

The original spending plan released last month already increases the hours that libraries are open, hikes the amount of officers in police academies, boosts the number of fire academies and provides extra money for infrastructure projects.

Because the budget mainly involves restoration of services and not cuts, criticism has been mild.

Councilman David Alvarez expressed disappointment that, in his view, the neighborhoods he represents are not receiving their fair share of project funding.

"While the mayor's revision to his budget proposal takes a few small steps in the right direction, much more needs to be done," Alvarez said. "There is a shovel-ready, 15-plus-acre community park project in Ocean View Hills -- the only thing standing in the way is the mayor's approval of the needed funding."

Alvarez, who lost to Faulconer in the mayoral runoff election three months ago, said he looks forward to working with his City Council colleagues and the mayor to get the project built.

The mayor's office is scheduled to formally present the proposed changes at a special City Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning. The council is scheduled to approve the budget budget next month.

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