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I’m happy to have this opportunity to host the Café. There are plenty of huge issues swirling around the city this week, most noticeably the mayor’s budget proposal. I will try to do them justice and not pull any punches.

Service, Service, Service.

Earlier this week, Scott Lewis used my words against me to question Jerry’s sanity so I feel duty bound to start there. In January, I told voiceofsandiego.org that it would be delusional not to believe that service cuts would be necessary to balance the city’s budget. That information was accurate when I gave it. A lot has changed since then and I think it speaks volumes about the reform efforts of the Sanders Administration. It’s also a good example to those who believe that the only way to solve problems is to tax or fee your way out of them. Let me explain.

In November of last year, the mayor projected a budgetary deficit of $87.4 million for FY08. In order to close that gap, the mayor launched a full frontal attack on the inefficiencies associated with city government. Every day, behind the scenes, hundreds of dedicated city employees have been working hard to cut costs and simplify government processes. The result is over $50 million in savings since Jerry took office. Additionally, there will be 710 fewer employees on the city’s payroll during FY08 (that’s a 9.1 percent reduction of the city’s workforce in mayoral departments, excluding sworn public safety personnel. Those savings are the fundamental difference between January and now) and explains the “delusional” issue pointed out by Scott.

So, the bottom line is that as a result of fundamental and permanent reforms, cost-cutting and streamlining, the mayor will deliver an FY08 budget to the council that is balanced, preserves municipal service levels and funds long-term obligations that have long been ignored. What was the case in January is not the case today because of the mayor’s perseverance and his dedication to rethinking the way the city provides services to our citizens.

That kind of thinking will have to continue into FY09 and beyond. Even after we accelerate some additional reforms (like the reduction of an additional 250 positions), we still have a projected deficit of $41.8 million in FY09. By design and necessity, the hard work will continue. The remaining deficit should also serve as a wake-up call to all regarding the city’s ability to take on additional debt that is not absolutely necessary.

Jerry believes that with the support of the City Council for further cost-cutting and efficiencies, he will be able to identify funding to fully close the FY09 budget gap while maintaining municipal service levels.

In my next post, I’ll get to the topic of measuring service levels.

FRED SAINZ

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