Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin is mostly signing on to Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed spending plan to close a budget gap of at least $83 million for the fiscal year starting July 1.

In a report released today, Tevlin suggested “very few revisions” to the mayor’s revised budget released earlier this month. She noted that Sanders’ office had included several recommendations made in prior IBA reports and suggestions by City Council members.

Tevlin did recommend the City Council direct the mayor to study several ideas for the 2011 fiscal year, when she said city will face a $100 million budget gap. Among the ideas is creating a commission to study city revenues, including whether to put a tax increase on the ballot and find ways to attract businesses.

The city’s budget shortfall could balloon to $119 million this year if the state decides to borrow property tax money from municipalities.

Tevlin suggested creating a small reserve of $1.7 million to handle potential mid-year funding needs, such as police and fire academies or stormwater pollution prevention. The report identified $2.5 million in funds that Tevlin said had “limited activity” and “unclear” purposes and that should be reviewed to see if they should be added to the city’s reserves in case of a potential state borrowing.

State action could lower the city’s revenues by as much as $36 million next year. To help plug that hole, Tevlin also says the council should consider setting aside up to $11 million slated for park improvements and collected from Mission Bay Park leases before Proposition C takes effect July 1.

That reserve would be created by transferring $816,000 from antenna leases on park and recreation sites, reducing stormwater funding by $1 million, and halving the $500,000 allocated for managed competition consultants, an idea recommended by Councilman Todd Gloria.

Tevlin did recommend adding three auditors and a fraud investigator to City Auditor Eduardo Luna’s office at a cost of $399,065, which Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio have pushed for.

Tevlin voiced concern that Sanders is proposing using more than $37 million of one-time funds to balance the budget gap, noting that using funds that don’t recur year after year exacerbates the so-called “structural budget deficit.” But the report said Tevlin’s office saw “no readily available alternative solutions” to balancing the budget otherwise and said one-time resources can be used to weather unusually large drops in revenue.

In the fall, Tevlin recommended — and the City Council approved — using reserves to help close a midyear budget gap without closing libraries and recreation centers. Sanders criticized the move but has proposed tapping one of the same funds this year.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance committee is slated to consider the recommendations Wednesday. The full council will vote on the budget June 8.


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