Remember those 18 months in which San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders was planning to attack the city’s long-term budget deficit? It’s down to 15.

Sanders said in an interview this week that he’s not talking about plans for next year’s $77 million deficit until he finishes with this year’s problem. It will take him until April to close a $15 million gap opened by larger than expected payments to the city’s pension fund, he said.

I wanted to talk with Sanders after my story a couple weeks ago pointed out that time was running short if the city wanted certain budget fixes — like new taxes or fees — for looming 2012 budget problems.

The mayor wasn’t having it.

“I’m not ruling out anything,” Sanders said. “We haven’t come to that spot yet. We’re still looking at how much we have to make up from the mid-year [cuts].”

I asked what his plans were for the current gap, other than more cuts. Sanders again mentioned outsourcing city information technology services. He added he was targeting city contracts.

“We’ll certainly take a look to see what savings we can get in those,” Sanders said.

Talk about contracts is new. Sort of. The mayor mentioned trying to get savings from vendors at a speech in September. But contract savings weren’t a major part of the $179 million deficit the city closed two months ago.

A recent report from a left-leaning think-tank found that outside contracts were the fastest growing part of the city’s budget. City Councilwoman Donna Frye also has criticized the city’s contract spending.

I followed up with mayoral spokesman Darren Pudgil for details. The city is not looking for across the board savings from contractors, but will target individual agreements. Pudgil didn’t have any more specifics, but said some savings would come from services that are no longer needed like those attached to the now-defunct police equestrian unit.

The Mayor’s Office is reviewing contracts now.

“It’s a massive undertaking that will certainly take time for us to feel the result,” Pudgil said.


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