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Libraries and recreation centers are facing steep cuts in the 2012 budget proposal Mayor Jerry Sanders is releasing today, the Union-Tribune is reporting.

Library hours will be cut almost in half to 18.5 hours a week with branches open two days a week and alternate Saturdays. Hours at recreation centers also will be halved to 20 hours a week. The budget, which requires the closing of a $56.7 million gap, restores eight fire engines that endured rotating shutdowns — known as “brownouts” — last year.

No major city service has seen cuts like libraries over the past decade of financial woe. Should the mayor’s budget pass, branch library hours will have decreased from 51 a week in 2000 to 18.5 in 2012, a 64 percent drop.

We’ve covered drops in library hours extensively over the past few years, including this story about the Saturday closure of the downtown main library. A new $185 million central library is under construction, but that too, will be closed on Saturdays unless cuts are restored before it opens in 2013. Here’s what mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing told me about that issue last March:

The cuts raise the prospect that the central library’s potential replacement, a new downtown schoobrary, could be shuttered on Saturdays if it opens as planned three years from now.

“If the economy continues to go down and our revenues continue to decrease, there won’t be central library hours on Saturday,” Laing said. “But no one expects that to happen.”

The mayor’s budget also includes $35.1 million worth of one-time budget fixes, such as not adding to city reserves and vacuuming up unused cash from different funds. That translates into a projected $40 million deficit for 2013, which will be Sanders’ last budget.

The $40 million figure doesn’t include the full annual cost of paying for retiree health care or money to address the backlog of crumbling streets, buildings and storm drains.

Update: This story has been updated with new figures on proposed library cuts after the mayor’s budget press conference Thursday afternoon.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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