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I’m planning to do a few posts over the next couple days that examine some issues raised after the city of San Diego released its five-year financial forecast that projects a $179.1 million budget deficit next year.

This one looks at how much money $179 million is in the context of San Diego’s larger budget picture.

The city’s current budget is $1.1 billion. Next year’s deficit is 16 percent of that figure.

Police and fire are the city’s two largest departments. They cost $589 million, or 52 percent of the overall budget.

To plug a $179 million budget hole, you could eliminate the third and fourth largest departments — parks and recreation ($85.9 million) and engineering and capital projects ($63.3 million) — and still have to eliminate the offices of the city treasurer ($17.9 million) and the city comptroller ($11.9 million).

Doing away with parks, engineering, the treasurer and the comptroller would still leave you with a $1.3 million deficit.

Let’s try this another way: Employees.

After the city’s independent retirement board chose not to reduce the city’s pension payment by $30 million this year, City COO Jay Goldstone said the decision would require the layoffs of up to 400 employees.

Using the same math with a $179 million budget gap, it would require the city to lay off up to 2,387 people. That figure would be 22 percent of the city’s 2008 workforce.

To be sure, no one is recommending the city no longer be in the parks business or fire nearly a quarter of its employees, but both these numbers should give some scope of this deficit’s depths.

— LIAM DILLON

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