A new city of San Diego report says that the most discussed sources of new revenues cannot help the city’s budget until 2013.

San Diego taxophiles have long said that new fees for trash and storm water collection are the city’s best bets to get the voter approval needed for new revenue streams.

But the time required for cost studies combined with city election schedules means that neither measure, if passed by voters, could add to the city’s coffers until the 2013 budget cycle, the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst said in a report released Monday night.

That means new money isn’t coming in time for the $30 million to $45 million the city needs by April 15, or the $77 million to $100 million deficit the city faces for 2012.

Just as important, neither fee can be an immediate solution in any effort Mayor Jerry Sanders will promote to eliminate the city’s persistent budget gaps. In January’s State of the City address, Sanders promised to present a plan that would end the city’s ongoing budget crises within 18 months.

The IBA report also indicated that the clock is ticking on 2013, too: The city must start both processes soon if wants the new money by then.

San Diego, the report says, is the only major city in California that does not charge residents at least a portion of its trash collection costs. A 1919 city ordinance, which would need to be repealed by voters, bars the city from doing so. Storm water costs are driven by state and federal mandates that limit runoff and pollution. Increasing storm water fees would require either the approval of a majority of city property owners or two-thirds of voters.

Based on this year’s budget, the IBA estimated that trash and storm water fees would raise $34 million and $37.7 million a year, respectively, the report said. That translates into homeowners paying $9.29 a month for trash service and homeowners’ storm water fees increasing by $4.54 a month.

The IBA report discusses many other potential sources of new revenues and is recommended reading. It should serve as a touchstone for any tax or fee discussions for some time. It should be noted that the IBA writes it’s not promoting new taxes or fees, just analyzing them.

Some other highlights from the report:

  • There are some taxes San Diego doesn’t have that other cities do. A tax on those using parking garages, which exists in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, could generate $31 million a year for San Diego. San Diego also doesn’t charge a tax on consumption of utilities like electricity, telephone and cable television. If a tax were implemented at the average of other major California cities, San Diego could raise $100.2 million a year.
  • Charging for parking at city beaches, parks or the San Diego Zoo would be tied up in legal and other restrictions that would make it difficult for that money to fund the day-to-day budget. The report recommends a legal analysis before going further.


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