Just returned from Mayor Jerry Sanders press conference outside City Hall to talk the state of the city’s $179 million budget deficit. I wanted to share some tidbits.

  • Sanders says he’ll recommend cutting 800 of the 832 vacant positions out of the city’s general fund budget. Normally, this decision would save $70 million to $80 million, Sanders said, but this move only will save about $20 million.

    Why is that? The city builds in budget savings each year based on the assumption that some jobs will be empty because of regular turnover, retirements, etc. Cutting 800 positions eats into the savings the city had already removed from the budget.

    Look for more on vacancies from me soon.

  • Sanders reiterated his push for mid-year budget cuts. The mayor said if the city cuts $60 million by the end of the year, then the savings realized between now and July allows the city only to have to cut $60 million more.

    For context, last year’s mid-year cuts were $37.3 million.

  • This week, Sanders is meeting with city departments to discuss budget reduction proposals they submitted two weeks ago. Sanders had asked each department to suggest cuts of more than a quarter of its discretionary budget. From there, Sanders will make his recommendations to City Council. Yesterday, Sanders met with the police and fire departments, which make up a combined 52 percent of the budget.
  • The mayor’s party line on selling the four citywide big building projects is shifting. Nearly every press conference, a reporter asks how the city can pay for an expanded Convention Center, new City Hall, new Chargers stadium and downtown schoobrary in the face of a budget deficit.

    The answer traditionally has been that private, grant and/or non-general fund money will be used for their construction. Sanders repeated that line today, too, but also added that shovels won’t be in the ground on any of those projects for some time. The implication is that potentially the budget and economic situation could be better than now.

  • I asked the mayor about two potential revenue sources, a stormwater fee and the independent budget analyst recommendation to use reserve funds to help plug this year’s budget gap. Like other questions he faced about revenue he repeated that the city was looking at all options, but hadn’t made any decisions.
  • Someone asked about Councilman Carl DeMaio’s appearance on television this morning where DeMaio reportedly criticized the mayor over pension obligations. (I haven’t seen the comments yet). Sanders called DeMaio’s statements “absolutely ridiculous” and then compared DeMaio to an old Sanders whipping boy.

    “I wasn’t sure if that was (former City Attorney) Mike Aguirre on that or Carl DeMaio,” Sanders said.

  • This press conference was more casual than most. Mayoral spokesman Darren Pudgil sent an e-mail to reporters this morning saying the mayor would be available to chat about the budget outside City Hall. There was no podium, no microphone and both Sanders and Pudgil wore open-collared shirts. Following the press conference, Sanders sped off to a parade.

    After all, it is a holiday.

Update: Received a call from Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin. She emphasized that her office hasn’t recommended the city spend down its reserves to address this year’s deficit, but rather delay contributions to reserves. You can read more about the IBA’s take on the city’s financial situation here.

— LIAM DILLON

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