With little gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands, the city of San Diego passed a $2.75 billion 2012 budget Monday afternoon. You’d be forgiven for not realizing it. The budget doesn’t cut all those branch library and recreation center hours that caused such a hullabaloo a couple months ago.

It doesn’t cut much of anything you’ll see at all. Here’s how this all happened:

What Did Mayor Jerry Sanders and the Council Do?

Seemingly the impossible. There was a $56.7 million deficit in April. Monday’s budget included no cuts to branch library or recreation center hours. It restored all the fire engines taken out of service in a previous round of cuts. It didn’t touch arts and culture programs. It added three lifeguard positions. And it improved the city’s reserve funding.

How Is That Possible?

Found money, baby. Revenues for sales tax and hotel-room taxes are coming in higher than expected. And literally finding money. The city’s new financial management system came across $11 million that hadn’t been allocated properly to the day-to-day operating budget. The money is helping the city’s reserves.

To be sure, the city made some long-term fixes. There’s savings from competitively bidding publishing services; reducing overtime, travel and training costs; and cutting 34 positions from across the day-to-day budget. It folded the Planning Department into Development Services. Also, the budget has some fee increases that still need final council approval and includes the elimination of city trash collection on private streets.

So Did We Solve The City’s Financial Problems?

Nope. The budget deficit for 2013 now stands at $41 million because the budget includes short-term fixes, such as selling land, that only can be used once. Also, the city still has a major repair backlog for its streets, sidewalks, buildings and other assets. It’s fair to say, however, there’s progress toward resolving the city’s longstanding financial problems. Back in January I did a rundown of the city’s fiscal health that’s still a good overview of the issues San Diego faces. Sanders has pledged to fix the long-term budget gap in next year’s budget, his last one before he leaves office.

The council vote was 7-1 with Councilman Carl DeMaio dissenting. He said he wanted the city to solve the long-term deficit this year. The city’s day-to-day operating budget, which pays for general services, will be $1.1 billion.

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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