Statement: “We’ve reduced over 1,400 positions in the city. And that includes 200 public safety people. We’ve cut over $300 million in our budget since ’06, $180 million which are permanent cuts,” Mayor Jerry Sanders told the Union-Tribune for this Aug. 29 Q&A he did in support of Proposition D, the half-cent sales tax increase on November’s ballot.
Analysis: The half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot is a proposed agreement with voters. If city officials complete 10 financial steps aimed at cutting costs, taxpayers will give them another $103 million annually for budget needs.
Proposition D opponents have cast city officials as untrustworthy and even compared them to drunkards feeding an addiction.
To counter that portrayal, Sanders and other Proposition D supporters have pointed to previous budget cuts and financial reforms as evidence of their desire to follow through on the agreement. In this case, Sanders cited figures compiled by Mary Lewis, the city’s chief financial officer, in this Aug. 3 memo.
Here’s a rundown of the exact numbers based on Lewis’ memo, budget documents and our previous reporting:
• Over the past four fiscal years, the city eliminated 1,412 full-time positions through budget cuts and streamlining. The vast majority of those positions were already vacant. At least one-third were eliminated last year to help close a $179 million deficit.
• As part of the cuts last year, the city eliminated more than 200 public safety positions, most of them vacant. Since 2007, the number of budgeted full-time positions for police, fire and rescue services has dropped by 312 to 3,687.
• Sanders entered office in 2006, but his first budget was the 2007 fiscal year. Since then, the city’s operating budget has increased by $71 million to nearly $1.1 billion. It would have grown by at least another $335 million, according to Lewis, had the city not made budget cuts and financial reforms to resolve annual budget deficits.
About $182 million of those cuts were permanent, which means they’ll save the city money every year. That includes the eliminated positions, labor concessions and cuts to city services. The rest of the $335 million included one-time savings, such as refinancing debt, which won’t provide the city any long-term relief.
Since Sanders’ statement got pretty close to the numbers overall, we’ve called his statement true.
Now, to be clear, our analysis relies heavily on the accuracy of the August memo created by Lewis, one of Sanders’ deputies. Because it’s not an independent review, we also ran the numbers by a couple Proposition D opponents to see if they had any objections.
None of the opponents voiced concerns about the memo’s accuracy, but instead, highlighted the distinction between eliminating positions and people. Positions can be vacant. The city didn’t eliminate more than 200 people from the public safety services because most of the positions were vacant.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, or have any reason to believe Lewis’ conclusions are inaccurate, please let us know. If necessary, we’ll update this Fact Check.