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San Diego City Council voted today to save six community service centers and three painters from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ budget ax, a vote that was later declared illegal by Sanders’ office.

Monday’s hubbub was the latest flare-up in an ongoing battle between the mayor and council over how best to close a $43 million midyear budget deficit.

The total cost of keeping the community service centers and painters from the facilities department in the budget is about $600,000 — up to $500,000 for the service centers and $113,000 for the painters. This brings the total amount of Sanders’ proposed budget cuts that City Council has rejected to just more than $6 million.

Sanders’ office said this evening that the vote to add these items back in the budget violated the city charter because it brought a substantial change to an appropriations ordinance that had already been voted on last week as a budget resolution.

“By adopting an Appropriations Ordinance inconsistent with the previously approved Budget Resolution, the City Council appears to have violated the City Charter,” wrote city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone in a memo to City Council President Scott Peters.

Goldstone went on to write that if council does not pass an appropriations ordinance that is identical to the budget resolution, he will recommend that Sanders veto the resolution, which would essentially bring the process back to square one.

Peters, who voted against adding the community service centers and painters back in the budget, said that if council violated then rules with its vote, “then we need to get it right.” He added that the City Attorney’s Office, which had a representative at the meeting, should have said something.

“If what we did does not comply with the charter, then we need to get an answer (from City Attorney Michael Aguirre) on a procedure to fix it, and then follow that procedure,” Peters said.

Last week, council voted to reject Sanders’ proposals to close seven libraries and nine recreation centers, and reduce by two the number of fire crews working in the city at any given time. All told, City Council has approved approximately $37.8 million of the $43 million in budget cuts proposed by Sanders. Those rejected by council are projected to increase the 2010 budget deficit from $44 million to $54 million, according to Sanders’ office.

The vote to keep the community centers was 5-3, with Councilmen Scott Peters and Jim Madaffer and Councilwoman Toni Atkins voting no. The vote for the painters was also 5-3, with Peters, Madaffer and Councilman Kevin Faulconer voting no.

DAVID WASHBURN

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