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Budget analyst: City needs to allocate more for maintenace

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City News Service

Expenses in Mayor Jerry Sanders’ five-year financial outlook for the city of San Diego should be increased by $12.2 million annually to pay for ongoing maintenance, the city’s Independent Budget Analyst said in a report released Thursday.

The impact would be deeper deficits in the first four years of the time period and a smaller than expected surplus in the final year.

City officials are trying to whittle down a backlog of capital projects estimated at $840 million, and have to keep up with routine maintenance at the same time so they don’t fall further behind.

While the mayor’s outlook calls for $45.8 million to maintain streets, storm drains and buildings in the next fiscal year, the actual total needed is $58 million, according to the IBA report.

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With other minor spending adjustments included, the budget shortfall for the next fiscal year would rise from the $31.8 million projected by the mayor’s office to $43.9 million as figured by the IBA.

The report suggests that in the three following years, the deficit would be between about $5 million and $7 million higher than the mayor’s office expects.

In the fifth year of the outlook, a surplus of $10.9 million is more likely than the mayor’s expectation of $22.7 million, the IBA reported.

The report said most of the mayor’s other figures were appropriate, with continued slow growth in revenues expected.

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The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The authors said the biggest variable that will affect all the projections are future contributions to the San Diego City Employees Retirement System.

The five-year outlook said that city pension costs will go from $231.2 million this year to $329.8 million at the end of the forecast period.

However, a consultant’s report delivered to the City Council earlier this week suggested those totals might dip because of lower salaries and improved investment performance. Voter approval or rejection of a ballot measure to reform the pension system is also expected to affect how much the city needs to chip into the retirement system.

The IBA report is scheduled to be delivered to the City Council’s Budget Committee on Wednesday