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Five city services in queue for outside bids will remain that way for months.

City officials plan to spend weeks reviewing the managed competition process and don’t expect to finish until July, program manager Barbara Lamb revealed during a City Council budget committee meeting Wednesday.

Lamb, who is leading the process for the city, said the delay could even extend close to the end of the year if formal talks with employee unions are necessary.

Lamb and others have already spent weeks conferring with those unions and the city’s independent budget analyst.

Some council members questioned how those delays might affect the city’s ability to close an expected $40 million shortfall in the city’s budget for next year.

Voters approved the managed competition measure more than six years ago and some city leaders had hoped savings would help chip away at the city’s budget deficits.

But Mayor Bob Filner wants to revisit procedures for selecting which city services go out for bid and discuss potential improvements before calling for new bids.

Projects that are already under way, including street sweeping and landfill operations, will continue to be implemented during the months-long review process. (For more details on where these projects stand, check out this post.)

Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who has pushed for the continued implementation of managed competition, reiterated his support for the process Wednesday.

“We’re leaving millions of dollars on the table,” he said.

Councilman Mark Kersey called on Filner to explain how he’d make up the potential savings.

“The fact that we have these queued up says to me that they’ve been identified as places we can save money and if it’s not via managed competition, if the mayor has a suggested alternative for how we might save $15 to $20 million out of these departments, I’m all ears but I would like to see a specific proposal and I’d like to see it come before this committee soon,” he said.

Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin piled on in questioning the delays and said the City Council could direct the mayor to move forward with the bids. Only Filner can begin that process.

Tevlin said earlier this year that delays in implementing contracts that have already been approved could add a $3.9 million shortage to city’s budget next year because former Mayor Jerry Sanders had assumed millions in savings from the program in his five-year budget outlook.

Tevlin has said holding up managed competition projects cuts into those assumed savings and previous delays could prove costly for years to come.

But it’s unclear how much the city might recover from the managed competition projects currently on hold because it never projected potential savings.

And it’s not as if Filner can immediately fix the situation by allowing bids on new contracts. It’s unlikely they’d be finished in time for budget savings anytime soon. So far all managed competition contracts have been awarded to city employees and each has required at least two years of union talks and preparation.

For that reason, Council President Todd Gloria emphasized the need to find other ways to save money.

“I don’t want us to just telescope onto one particular tool,” he said.

He asked Assistant Chief Operating Officer Nelson Hernandez about other ways the city seeks out potential efficiencies.

Hernandez said the city mainly relies on managed competition and suggestions from the city auditor.

Filner will reveal his plan to close the budget gap next month.

Lisa Halverstadt is a 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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