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City Council members said Wednesday that they expect the current budget season to feature “more push-pull” between Mayor Jerry Sanders and the council than last year.

In a discussion prior to a budget hearing in Pacific Beach, Councilwoman Toni Atkins told reporters that she anticipated the process for crafting the 2008 budget will be “the first year in which you’ll see the council and mayor play out the budget process the way it should.”

A year ago, the council and its independent budget analyst, Andrea Tevlin, criticized Sanders’ office for changing budget forecasts while the council was deliberating and for releasing a budget proposal that was heavy on glossy photos but light on details. Those mistakes were chalked up as a learning experience in the first year of the strong-mayor governing structure — where a mayor and not a city manager draws up a budget — and because Sanders had just a few months after his election to prepare the proposal.

“Last year was a unique year, the first year of strong-mayor. It was really a timeout year,” Councilman Kevin Faulconer said.

The remarks foreshadow what will likely be a contentious budget season between the mayor and council. The two sides almost immediately began criticizing one another two weeks ago when Sanders proclaimed that the layoffs he proposed in his 2008 budget would not downgrade city services even though he didn’t know how to measure service levels. Tevlin also said she is also spending a lot of time making sense of Sanders’ streamlining initiative, known as business process reengineering.

“There will probably be some major disagreements and there will probably be areas where we’re in sync,” said Atkins, chairwoman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee.

Sanders made a similar acknowledgement when he addressed the council Wednesday evening. “A lot of us are going to have different ideas about where we’re going,” he said.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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