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Mayor Jerry Sanders said today that he doesn’t expect to suggest closing libraries and park and recreation centers to help close the budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year. A controversial proposal by the mayor this budget year to close the facilities was ultimately rejected by the City Council to help close a $43 million midyear budget gap.
During a press conference on the city’s plans to borrow $103 million for infrastructure repairs, Sanders was asked why the list included projects such as $150,000 in roof repairs to the Ocean Beach library, one of seven libraries Sanders proposed closing last year. (That branch is also slated for an expansion.)
“One of the things I’ve heard from San Diegans is they’re not willing to see their libraries and their park and [recreation facilities] closed,” Sanders said. “So as we’re putting together our budget and as we’re moving through labor negotiations, we’ve got that number one in mind.”
He said he’s hopeful that city unions will agree to concessions during to avoid layoffs that will translate into service cuts. “I think we’ll be fine on all of that,” Sanders said.
I asked Sanders afterward if he was looking at other ways to cut library costs, such as reducing hours. He said no, that he thought the unions were willing to agree to measures that would avoid service cuts.
He said the budget proposal he’s crafting to present to the City Council next month won’t include cuts to libraries. “That’s not what we have in there right now, no,” Sanders said.
When I asked if the budget would include cuts to park and recreation, Sanders demurred. “You’ll see the budget on April 15th,” he said.
He added: “Let me just tell you, we heard the public. We just heard the public say they don’t want to see service cuts to the libraries and parks.”
Sanders’ initial bargaining proposal to the unions called for concessions such as eliminating the deferred retirement program, changing the eligibility for retiree health care, implementing furloughs. Scott Lewis has been writing about the Municipal Employees Association’s counteroffer.