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Earlier this year, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced a city budget surplus that would help increase library hours, including restoring Saturday service at Central Library.

That hasn’t happened yet, even though the City Council approved a budget that included expanded hours more than four months ago.

The city’s Independent Budget Analyst says that’s because of Proposition B, a recently approved citizen initiative that calls for the city to offer new staffers 401(k)s rather than the pensions that have plagued the city’s budget.

San Diego officials had to develop an interim plan to provide retirement benefits for new employees and reach an agreement about it with the city’s five labor unions. That meant delaying the hires necessary to expand library hours, said Chris Ojeda of the budget analyst’s office.

“They were looking at additional hours but additional hours are going to necessitate additional bodies,” he said. “(Extended library hours) are going to be delayed until that hiring freeze is lifted.”

The freeze has also affected other city departments, including parks and recreation. It also threatened to prevent 36 fire department recruits from attending a fall academy, U-T San Diego reported last month.

But library lovers are in luck.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the interim retirement plan for new employees.

That vote means residents can enjoy Saturdays at the Central Library and an uptick in hours at branch libraries sooner rather than later. A 2013 budget overview says the downtown library, which eliminated its Saturday hours in 2010, will be open a portion of that weekend day and that hours at the city’s 35 branch libraries would increase to 44 hours each week, up from 36.

The city now expects to have the necessary staffing to open the Central Library from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays beginning Nov. 3 and add more Sunday hours at other city branches the following day, a library spokeswoman said.

The city will still need to recruit and hire more staffers to increase its Monday hours at multiple city branches and hopes to have that done by early December, the spokeswoman said.

Lisa Halverstadt is the newest reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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