Opinion

Winners and Losers in the City’s Budget Priorities

 

This is a time of crisis, for the City of San Diego. Wall Street is not going to help us out of the current year’s cash-flow problem that is pitting our public safety against our community resources.

To begin a rational discussion about priorities we select as a city, I compiled the attached comparison of general fund expenditures on city departments from the time of economic boom, prior to Mayor Sanders assuming office (FY2005), to the current proposed budget (FY2012). One problem we face in such comparisons, is that functions morph from one department to another, as governance and leadership changes. I have tried to match the closest primary function of each department between the years, grouping them together, so we can understand the changes. I will be happy to make adjustments, based on feedback from readers and the City.

Here are some observations:

• Since FY2005, expenditures have been flat, when adjusted for inflation. The impact of population growth, has not been taken into account, which might vary for each department effected.

• The biggest winners have been the City Treasurer and Financial Management. This is especially attributable to organizational changes by Mayor Sanders, and fiscal reform. He created several new departments: Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Financial Management, Purchasing & Contracting, and Debt Management. These four departments combined expend over 3 times in FY2012 the expenditures of Financial Management in FY2005.

• In addition, one of the largest increase over the course of seven years is in Engineering & Capital Projects.

• It is no surprise that the biggest losers in dollars are Library and Park & Recreation departments. The biggest impact in relative proportion is to General Services, which clean streets and maintain facilities.

I hope that this will give us an insight, as we do not need to give Wall Street consultants and contractors the first priority. Departments that provide direct services to our residents should be first priority.

Murtaza Baxamusa is the Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation. He lives in Bird Rock.

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Murtaza Baxamusa

Murtaza Baxamusa

Murtaza Baxamusa works for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corp. and volunteered as a special policy adviser for Bob Filner.

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12 comments
Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

P.S. Just so there's no confusion, that annual $40 plus mil doesn't include a penny of actual contributions to the pension fund itself, it's just cost of administration.

toulon
toulon

P.S. Just so there's no confusion, that annual $40 plus mil doesn't include a penny of actual contributions to the pension fund itself, it's just cost of administration.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

What I found looking at the budget figures on the internet for the cities of San Antonio, Phoenix and San Jose, all roughly our size, was that our costs ere far higher than any of them. What I found looking at the department functions was that San Diego will counsel any employee who isn't near retirement age but simply wants to "count his chips". In fact, several employees are dedicated to doing just that. I also found that the number of outside investment managers employed by SDCERS is absurdly large. But let's just ask a simple question: Does it make sense to spend far more managing retirement benefits for about 25,000 employees and retirees than is spent running a library system with 35 branches serving 1.3 million residents plus an unknown number of visitors?

toulon
toulon

What I found looking at the budget figures on the internet for the cities of San Antonio, Phoenix and San Jose, all roughly our size, was that our costs ere far higher than any of them. What I found looking at the department functions was that San Diego will counsel any employee who isn't near retirement age but simply wants to "count his chips". In fact, several employees are dedicated to doing just that. I also found that the number of outside investment managers employed by SDCERS is absurdly large. But let's just ask a simple question: Does it make sense to spend far more managing retirement benefits for about 25,000 employees and retirees than is spent running a library system with 35 branches serving 1.3 million residents plus an unknown number of visitors?

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot subscriber

About stormwater, please follow up on this. I'd noticed that and assumed that there was a revenue shift from enterprise funds to the general fund. If that's not the case, then wow. I don't know the story here and am very interested to learn. Potentially on par with the pension as source of financial distress, if a bit harder to demonize...

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot

About stormwater, please follow up on this. I'd noticed that and assumed that there was a revenue shift from enterprise funds to the general fund. If that's not the case, then wow. I don't know the story here and am very interested to learn. Potentially on par with the pension as source of financial distress, if a bit harder to demonize...

Murtaza Baxamusa
Murtaza Baxamusa subscribermember

This is good but...I really wonder if the forest for the trees ISN”T the storm water. If the City is unwilling to get a new revenue source but still needs to pay 91 million isn’t that JUST as big of story as any increases in obligations because of increasing DB costs. Now I know that tweaks the labor-environmental coalition you guys tried/try to put together but it it seems a bit part of the story. If they hadn’t had this mandate the city could have managed the upward pressure in costs….or did what they should have done…ask people to PAY for the mandate.

Murtaza
Murtaza

This is good but...I really wonder if the forest for the trees ISN”T the storm water. If the City is unwilling to get a new revenue source but still needs to pay 91 million isn’t that JUST as big of story as any increases in obligations because of increasing DB costs. Now I know that tweaks the labor-environmental coalition you guys tried/try to put together but it it seems a bit part of the story. If they hadn’t had this mandate the city could have managed the upward pressure in costs….or did what they should have done…ask people to PAY for the mandate.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Its called positioning..

mgland
mgland

Its called positioning..

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot subscriber

Tempting to start drawing conclusions, but would help to answer some of the above first.

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot

Tempting to start drawing conclusions, but would help to answer some of the above first.