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There’s still a wide gap between the cost to keep San Diego’s streets, storm drains and buildings from deteriorating and what the city actually spends.

This year the difference will stand at $84 million — close to the cost of running the city’s entire park and recreation department for an entire year.

The chief reason is Mayor Bob Filner’s decision to delay a big loan to pay for repairs as part of his proposed budget. If the city borrows the money by the end of June, the gap would only be about $4 million.

It turns out Filner’s choice to postpone this year’s loan has a cascading effect on the city’s ability to catch up on repairs through 2017, according to a report from the city’s independent budget analyst, and reveals the importance of the city staying on track with repairs.

By delaying the loan a year and cutting some cash funding in 2014, the city will spend $85 million less on infrastructure over the next five years than the City Council had planned. The council’s original spending plan still wouldn’t have stopped streets, storm drains and buildings from getting worse each year until 2017.

And the city can’t simply borrow twice the amount of money next year to make up for this year’s lost revenue. The city’s engineering and capital projects department can handle only about $100 million in borrowed money each year. If the city borrowed more, the money would pile up and go unspent.

The budget analyst provided an alternative that would increase the amount of cash and borrowing for repairs. But that idea would still provide less funding than the council’s original plan. The decision to delay the loan is too much to overcome for the next five years.

Regardless, in 2017 the city’s infrastructure will be in worse shape than if the mayor remained on schedule.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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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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