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A majority of City Council members and several residents took aim at Mayor Jerry Sanders’ budget proposals for the parks and libraries, saying that they didn’t trust the mayor’s pledge that the services won’t be scaled back in light of hundreds of proposed layoffs.
Sanders’ proposal would cut about 30 positions from the libraries and 220 from park and recreation, though the mayor contends that service levels, such as library hours, will remain the same. He acknowledges that the city cannot correctly measure service levels he claims will remain constant.
The council and community members contend the departments are already poorly staffed. They don’t agree with the mayor’s pledge that service levels will remain the same.
“I’m not going to buy into that,” Councilman Tony Young said, referring to the mayor’s assumption that services will be maintained at the same level after the departure of two employees from the Mount Hope Cemetery. “It was happenstance they left, and we just decided not to fill [those positions].”
Councilman Ben Hueso lamented the state of bathrooms at neighborhood parks, attributing it to staffing levels. “Some bathrooms are so unusable and unclean, with graffiti and human waste,” he said.
Nearly a dozen residents echoed the staffing concerns. “Park and Rec is not lean, but it’s anorexic,” University City resident Cathy Lester said.
John McAllister, a local library booster, noted that there are no librarians who tend to children’s sections at the three branches in Clairemont, where 12,000 children under age 18 reside.
“They’re asking for help, but there’s no one there to man the desk,” McAllister said.
The council also took exception with Sanders’ practice of making the budget contingent on a number of events that haven’t taken place, such as the sale of city land, the issuance of infrastructure bonds and the creation of a program that would help free up hotel tax for the city’s use. Councilman Jim Madaffer said he was wary of a future day when that expected revenue didn’t come through, potentially forcing the council to make tough midyear cuts.
“It’s almost as if the City Council is being set up here,” Madaffer said. “What happens when the money doesn’t come in? It’s going to be the council that makes the cut.”
Budget hearings continue throughout the week and next. Check the schedule for an upcoming meeting.