San Diego council wants budget funds for AirBnB crackdown and the arts

San Diego City Council members want more money for rental grants, tree planting, arts programs and library books in the new budget Mayor Todd Gloria will soon begin creating for the fiscal year 2024.

Council members are also calling for more money for lifeguards, climate equity, creating the city’s first bicycle master plan in a decade, and enforcing the city’s recent policy. crackdown on short-term vacation rentals.

To amplify the board’s impact on the proposed budget Gloria is due to unveil in April, board members submitted budget priority memos in October, instead of the following February.

A downside to this approach is greater uncertainty about city finances at such an early date. This budget cycle, the memos come ahead of the annual release in November of the mayor’s financial outlook estimating surpluses or deficits over the next five years.

The city’s independent budget analyst, who compiled the council’s budget memos and released them Thursday, said there were several additional concerns going into the new budget cycle.

San Diego will only have $52 million left of the $300 million it received in 2020 for federal pandemic stimulus, which has been key in helping the city balance the last two budgets – $100 million in fiscal year 2022 and $148 million in fiscal year 2023.

The city could also be forced to pay up to $100 million for unwind the legally undone Proposition B pension cuts. The IBA said more information on the amount owed by the city is expected in February.

The city could draw on reserves, but the IBA noted that these reserves are well below target levels as contributions have been suspended in recent years. The city has about $200 million in reserves, about 10% of its $1.9 billion annual budget.

Another potential concern is the annual city pension payment, which is expected to rise sharply. The payout was down $31 million this fiscal year due to stock market gains, and is likely to increase in the new fiscal year due to inventory losses.

Investment losses increase the city’s pension debt and annual payout, because a crucial part of the city’s long-term performance plan is significant growth in the value of investments made by the city’s retirement system. .

Despite the uncertainty, council members are proposing numerous spending increases. In general, they want the mayor to continue to focus on homelessness and climate change programs.

As for specific programs, a majority of the nine council members want an expansion of a rental assistance program created last summer with $3.6 million. Requests for additional funding have reached $15 million for the program, which grants $500 a month to low-income people living in unstable housing conditions.

Council members also want more money for tree planting, pointing out that the city’s revised climate action plan calls for 35% tree cover by 2035.

On a related note, council members want more money for the city’s new Climate Equity Fund, which helps low-income areas vulnerable to climate change. Three board members want the program to triple from $5 million to $15 million.

For lifeguards, council members want more staff, more equipment and more training, including money for an advanced lifeguard academy.

Regarding libraries, council members want $250,000 for more library books and other materials, $500,000 more for library maintenance, and an increase in matching funds from the city for donations, from $1.2 million to $1.4 million.

Board members also want to hire seven more full-time librarians focused on youth, family and adolescent services so that all 36 city branches have such a librarian.

Another priority listed in the memos is updating the city’s bicycle master plan for the first time since 2013. Safer bicycle routes are key to getting people to commute in more climate-friendly ways, according to city officials.

Council members also want more money for code enforcement, especially for short-term vacation rentals and underserved communities.

The board’s budget committee is due to discuss the priorities on Wednesday, with the full board due to finalize them on Oct. 31.

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