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Compromise San Diego budget proposal would fund streets assessment, boost arts money

San Diego would spend $700,000 to conduct a citywide assessment of its streets, it would boost arts funding by $2 million and it would double spending on graffiti removal in a package of last-minute budget additions the City Council is scheduled to consider Monday.

The package of additions recommended by Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin also includes money for new streetlights, tree trimming, brush clearing to prevent wildfires and a new city bureau focused on young people.

The $9.1 million in proposed new spending would be covered by a $3 million rebate from the county Registrar of Voters, $3.7 million from the city’s new franchise deal with San Diego Gas & Electric, and some other new money.

More than $1.4 million of it would come from $306 million in federal pandemic relief San Diego was awarded this spring. Tevlin’s proposal would preserve $113.4 million of the money in case the local economic rebound falters.

Tevlin’s recommendations are based on suggestions from multiple City Council members submitted in late May, so the council is expected to include most or all of them in the $1.6 billion budget it adopts Monday for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Because the local economy appears to be picking up steam, Tevlin suggested council members may feel comfortable spending some of the remaining $113.4 million in federal stimulus on Monday.

The $700,000 streets assessment would determine the city roads that most need repairs, helping city officials spend paving money more effectively.

The city conducted assessments in 2011 and 2016, but former Mayor Kevin Faulconer canceled the effort scheduled to begin last year because of budget constraints.

The $2 million boost in arts funding would bring annual spending to $9.1 million. Tevlin noted that would still be far short of a $17.4 million city goal.

Spending on graffiti removal would double, from $150,000 to $300,000. Tevlin says city staff focused on graffiti told her that would be enough to respond to all requests for graffiti removal during the new fiscal year.

Tevlin’s proposal also includes $350,000 for a new Office of Child and Youth Success, which would focus on increasing access to quality childcare, boosting school enrollment rates and encouraging more women to work.

She also proposes $900,000 more for tree trimming, which would increase the city’s annual outlay from $2.3 million to $3.2 million. The boost would allow the city to trim shade trees at a pace of once every 10 years instead of once every 24 years.

There would also be $700,000 more for streetlight installation, $500,000 citywide and $200,000 earmarked specifically for communities of concern — low-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods the city has neglected in the past.

The $500,000 would boost general streetlight spending from $1.2 million to $1.7 million. The money for communities of concern would rise from $250,000 to $450,000.

Spending on brush management to prevent wildfires would be restored to $900,000. Mayor Todd Gloria proposed cutting it to $572,000. Tevlin also recommends restoring $350,000 for maintenance of the city’s firefighting helicopters.

Tevlin’s proposal also includes $500,000 for a study of how the city could become its own power supplier, replacing SDG&E.

The new franchise deal with SDG&E, which was approved last month, provides $3.7 million for Tevlin’s new spending proposals. Another $3 million comes from the county registrar as a rebate for the November 2020 election, which was less expensive than expected.

Other new funding includes $750,000 from the Unified Port of San Diego, which will soon double its annual reimbursement to the city for fire, police and emergency services from $750,000 to $1.5 million.

The proposed budget, which has been debated at City Hall since Mayor Gloria unveiled a preliminary version in mid-April, cuts library hours from pre-pandemic levels.

Before the pandemic, 22 branches were open 46 hours per week and 14 branches were open 52 hours per week. In the proposed budget, all branches would be open 42.5 hours.

But in May, Gloria announced he would increase weekly hours per branch to 46 once city libraries hire enough staff to fully re-open, sometime this fall. The mayor also vowed to restore Sunday library hours.

Gloria’s budget also provides millions for small business aid, homelessness prevention and neighborhood equity programs.



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