San Diego City Council approves budget, employee contracts

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 22:19:46-04

SAN DIEGO - The City Council Monday unanimously approved a $3.3 billion budget for the city of San Diego's upcoming fiscal year that emphasizes road repairs and infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is scheduled to sign into law the spending plan, which also includes more funding for recruiting and retaining police officers, dispatchers, firefighters and lifeguards; adds hours at some recreation centers; and boosts support for arts and culture programs.

The budget contains funding to add a second weekly trash pickup during the summer in Mission Beach to address an annual fly infestation, and $1.5 million to fix up the dilapidated former Navy Hospital Library building and $1.35 million to repair the Botanical Building, both in Balboa Park.

Renovating the library building will allow 50 Parks & Recreation Department Open Space employees to move from the downtown City Administration Building to Balboa Park, and let city workers currently housed in leased office space to move back to City Hall -- saving at least $175,000 in annual rent payments, according to a report by the city's Independent Budget Analyst.

The 102-year-old Botanical Building has been in line for restoration for several years. The IBA noted that the Balboa Park Conservancy has raised $500,000 toward the project, leaving an $850,000 funding gap on work projected to cost $2.7 million.

"The conservancy is committed to having the balance of the funding raised very soon, but they do not have this funding in hand at the moment and are looking for the city's commitment in funding to leverage additional philanthropic dollars to complete this very important project," said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents Balboa Park and chairs the council's Budget Committee.

The council approved his plan to have the city's portion of funding come from an upcoming capital projects bond.

"With the City Council's approval of my third budget, we're continuing to make significant investments in San Diego's neighborhoods and building a better future for all residents," Faulconer said. "And, for the second year in a row, the City Council took the rare step of unanimously approving my budget proposal with minor amendments that I will support."

The council members also approved new contracts with four of the city's six public employee unions, which represent firefighters, lifeguards, deputy city attorneys and technical workers.

The deals include raises of 3.3 percent in the last two years of the four-year deals -- except for the city's lawyers, who agreed to a three-year contract.

In general, they also provide increases to discretionary, bereavement and parental leave benefits and reimbursements for downtown parking.

City Council President Sherri Lightner said the employees have sacrificed a lot in the years since the recession, when they had to take pay cuts to keep the city financially afloat.

"I'm grateful to all of you who stayed with the city -- we truly appreciate what you do and we thank you for sticking it out," Lightner said. "I hope the city can continue to increase employee compensation to a level you all deserve and have earned."

Firefighters received extra healthcare benefits, while lifeguards handing specialty assignments will get bonus pay.

Combined, the deals will cost the city around $51 million over four years, according to staff.