Monday, March 14, 2005 | It seems every year, just as the leaves are coming out on the Flowering Plum by my front door, the city of San Diego runs out of money.

It’s what the City Hall bureaucrats call their midyear budget “adjustment”. Seven months after the fiscal year begins, they finally add things up and discover their rock solid projections the previous May and June – when the budget is approved – are just a bit off.

This year, $50 million. Last year, $10.7 million. In 2003, $32 million; 2002, $15.6 million.

Cuts always seem to come from the same places … the ever popular “deferred

Well, frankly, I’m tired of driving on “paved” streets that have more potholes, cracks and are in worse shape than a dirt road. Parks and libraries? They get rundown and affect everybody, including tourists, who are so important to our economy.

Champagne Appetite on a Beer Budget

So, lets look at things that only the city government can do for us and cut the rest. What services are these? Water and sewer. Roads. Police and fire. Parks and libraries. Pretty simple stuff.

So what to cut? We have $50 million to make up, remember. I pulled up the city’s budget on its Web site, but only found the proposed 2005 budget, not the actual. So I don’t know exactly how much is budgeted, but I’ll take a stab at it with what I got.

Cut ConVis

In addition to getting ConVis’s hand out of the taxpayer’s pocket, it would free up those good folks to do any kind of promotion they want. Golf tournaments in Florida for travel agents? No problem. Drinks on ConVis? No problem. Loans to executives? How much do you need? Government has so many strings attached, so get rid of government.

A recent report said San Diego has among the highest hotel room rates and the highest occupancy in the country. Surely this vibrant and important industry could use its own money for promotion. Certainly a major local manufacturer like Sony doesn’t ask the city for money to sell Playstations, so the hotels should step up and take over this burden.

Cut the San Diego Economic Development Corporation

So, pass the hat and come up with the $1.2 million that the city spends each year contributing to the Economic Development Corporation. This is a big city … that’s less than $1 per resident – your customers – to contribute to making your business grow.

So, we’re now down to less than $35.7 million.

Cut the San Diego Convention Center

There’s another line item for “new convention facility” of $4,564,172. I believe this covers the bond payments on the convention center expansion. Well, hotel folks, figure out how to raise that $14,216,821; right now, you’re asking the taxpayers to do it so you can profit.

We’re down to $21,466,728.

Cut City Council staff positions

Cut three positions from each of the eight City Council offices and we’ll save over $1.6 million. A dollar here, a dollar there, and we can buy beer again.

Cut the mayor’s staff

We’re down a bit, to $18,993,193. Sure looks a lot better than $50 million, doesn’t it? What’s next on the list? Well, we can’t cut from the Water or Sewer departments, since they’re cost-recovery departments and by law can only use the rates to pay for services. Same for Development Services.

Can’t do anything about Qualcomm Stadium or Petco Park. If we default on bonds, well, that’s part of our problem today. And we have leases with the Chargers and Padres, such as they are.

What about this … the city’s “Optimization Program.” Well, if you don’t have any money, there’s nothing to optimize. $760,411. Maybe we can afford this when we can afford premium beer.

Cut Information and Technology

Less than $16.7 million. We’re getting closer to balancing the checkbook.

Cut Community and Economic Development

Gosh. We’re down to $3.6 million and we haven’t even cut lawn mowing. Besides, with all those programs cut, support funds in other departments would probably make up the gap.

I’m sure somebody’s going to question my numbers; well I’m not an accountant, just somebody who went looking through the budget.

Someone else will defend these programs as essential. They’ll show me how these programs have benefited San Diego over the years. The employees that will be cut are valued, great Americans and San Diegans, dedicated all.

Individual businesses can’t make contributions to support their businesses because they’d all go broke, someone will say. For every dollar spent by the taxpayers, 10 come back!

But if $9.50 of that goes back to businesses, so it’s in their interest to spend the dollar, rather than have the taxpayers lose half their investment.

But our streets need to be paved. Cops and firefighters need to be paid. Only our tax dollars can pay for public parks and libraries.

Champagne? Maybe not. But our beer is warm and flat. We should be able to at least afford the fizz.

Second generation San Diegan Jack Brandais is a freelance writer.

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