He was dealt a deficit but somehow Mayor Bob Filner came up with cash for some surprising budget additions.

He found $1.3 million to keep the downtown winter shelter open year-round and $200,000 for bus passes for some low-income San Diego Unified students. He also carved out about $1 million for a new city program and $1.6 million in arts funding.

All those new things required cuts and some creative maneuvering.

Here’s a closer look at some of Filner’s plans to close the $38.4 million gap in the city’s day-to-day budget and just how he came up with extra cash for his new proposals. The City Council is reviewing the proposal in a series of meetings this week.

• A big legal settlement: Last year, the city received $27 million from San Diego Gas & Electric after a lawsuit over claims related to the 2007 wildfires. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders dropped the money in the city’s reserve account for legal claims. Filner wants to dip into that account and use the $21.6 million portion accessible to the city’s operating fund to help close the budget deficit.

• A postponed bond: City officials planned to issue an $80 million bond this spring to cover street and other infrastructure repairs but Filner wants to wait until early next year. Doing so would keep a $5.6 million debt payment off the city’s balance sheet for next year.

• A little cushion: A $4.4 million budget surplus this year helped Filner pencil in new spending for next year, including $1.1 million for police gear, $500,000 for a cliff rescue vehicle for city lifeguards and $200,000 for bus passes for some low-income students in the San Diego Unified School District.

• Help from hotel taxes: The death of the city’s redevelopment agency means the city has to fork over $13.8 million for loan payments on Petco Park and the convention center next year. Filner proposes using $7.6 million in proceeds from a 10.5 percent tax on hotel stays to help cover the bill. 

• Storm water switch: Filner wants to trim $2.9 million in planned spending on storm water projects. But that doesn’t mean there will be a slowdown in related spending: Earlier this year, the San Diego City Council signed off on a $35 million bond that incorporates $5 million for watershed projects.

• A dig at a nemesis: Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith don’t exactly have a rosy relationship, a fact exemplified (and probably aggravated) by the mayor’s proposal to cut $1.4 million or 13 staffers from the city attorney’s office. The mayor says Goldsmith had it coming because staffing has increased in his office since 2008 despite citywide cutbacks. In a report released late last week, the city’s independent budget analyst confirmed that Goldsmith’s office has seen a 2.3 percent hike in employees since 2008 while staffing has dipped 6.5 percent citywide.

• Infrastructure cutback: The city’s five-year blueprint to tackle its deteriorating infrastructure suggested officials includes $50 million for street, facility and storm drain repairs next year. Filner suggests reducing that by $1 million.

• A couple transfers: Filner wants to take $1.4 million from a pot of money that supports jail construction and planning and another $1 million from the city’s emergency medical services fund. Filner plans to use these accounts to help balance the budget in coming years too.

• Smaller cuts: Filner also managed to squeeze out cash with several smaller cuts, including the elimination of a planned fire academy and a roughly $578,000 trim in mayor’s office staffing.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the city’s transient occupancy tax rate. The city collects a 10.5 percent tax on hotel stays.

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

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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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