San Diego City Council made it clear Monday that it wanted to keep open — at least for several months — libraries and recreation centers that Mayor Jerry Sanders had slated for closure in his budget cut proposal.

But what still isn’t clear is exactly where the money will come from to keep the facilities open. The mayor asked for $43 million in mid-year cuts, the council authorized $37.3 million, or thereabouts, leaving a $5.7 difference.

The motion that council passed by a 6-1 margin calls for making up the $5.7-million difference through mandatory furloughs of city employees, new revenues via increases in user fees for city services and savings from the city’s business process re-engineering program. Council also authorized that money be taken out of a library and hotel-tax reserve funds.

And finally, the motion calls for council members to use money they have saved from their budgets over the years — a combined total of $1.4 million — in what are known as “infrastructure funds” to address the budget deficit as they see fit. This section of the motion reads as follows:

Not return the remaining balances of the Council Offices Infrastructure Funds to the General Fund, instead have each office use their funds as they direct to address the budget deficit.

However, there is confusion as to whether the motion requires council members to spend the entire balance of their infrastructure funds on the current budget deficit, or if they have more latitude on the spending of that money, and not have to spend it on the deficit at all.

“I don’t think it is clear,” said Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin. “I think there are some questions that need to be answered about that.”

Getting those answers is important because the Mayor’s Office has said repeatedly that the city will not be able to institute mandatory furloughs and fee increases in short order. This means that nearly all of the $5.7 million will likely come out of the library and hotel-tax reserve funds, if council members do not apply their infrastructure funds to the deficit.

Jay Goldstone, the city’s chief operating officer, said that if this is what happens, there will likely be a deficit in the hotel-tax reserve fund in fiscal 2010.

I’ve talked with council members over the past couple days, and the general sense is that they do not have to spend the money on the current deficit, but a few might do it anyway. Others might not.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Councilwoman Donna Frye, for example, said they may spend their money to keep open community service centers that were victims of the mid-year cuts. Councilman Tony Young, however, indicated that he might hold on to the money in his fund to offset future cuts to libraries and recreation centers in his district.


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