Locals react to Sanders’ budget plan

Community leaders are weighing in on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ 18-month proposal to deal with the projected $179 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 by making reductions in virtually every city department and having them take effect on Jan. 1.

The spending plan, which maintains the jobs of all sworn police and fire personnel and avoids closures of libraries and recreation centers, calls for a full pension payment and leaves reserves untouched. The mayor wants the changes enacted six months earlier than the normal start of the fiscal year.

“This recession has had a deep impact on virtually every city in the country, and San Diego is no exception,” said Sanders. “While far from painless, this plan balances the budget without decimating city services or jeopardizing our good standing on Wall Street.”

Sanders’ plan incorporates $82.6 million in ongoing structural reductions, largely through cutting 530 positions — 200 of which are currently filled.

Joe Parker, incoming Bird Rock Community Council president, had a wait-and-see reaction to the mayor’s proposal.

“It’s something of a fluid dynamic and it’s hard to tell at this early stage what potential affects it could have on local communities,” he said. “There appears to be disagreement as to whether cuts have to be more drastic — or there are opportunities to pick and choose.”

Outgoing La Jolla Shores Association Chairman Jim Heaton noted the city is doing what it has to.

“The mayor’s cuts, unfortunately, are required and necessary,” he said. “I hope that’s as deep as we have to go. This is going to put additional pressure on individual local communities to help maintain our beaches and quality of life.”

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner confirmed that there will be cuts to public services, including some in her district which includes most of La Jolla as well as other areas in the northern part of the city.

“There will be effects for rec centers and libraries,” she said. “The University City library will be open three days a week and hours will be cut. We may have (service reductions) with fire stations, though we don’t know which stations will be affected.”

Lightner noted the mayor’s proposal at this stage is exactly that, and things may change with budget deliberations.

“They (public) may have suggestions on how to minimize the costs to specific communities, and may provide us with more opportunities to volunteer as well,” she said.

Lightner’s District 2 counterpart — Councilman Kevin Faulconer, whose district includes part of Mount Soledad and Bird Rock —said the mayor’s proposal includes “numerous structural changes and a leaner, more efficient work force with minimal impacts to core city services.”

Longtime La Jollan and cityhood advocate Melinda Merryweather described the mayor’s proposed cuts as “beyond horrible,” noting it’s one more reason to seek independence.

Gavin McBride, speaking on behalf of the San Diego Association for Lifeguards, said the group’s goal was no reduction in service.

“The mayor’s proposal calls for elimination of permanent staff at Black’s (Beach) in the wintertime,” he said. “We’re hoping to give the mayor’s office and the City Council some suggestions for revenue generation which hopefully will bring that crew up there back.”

NOTE: After press time, Lightner’s office reported that Sanders is “no longer proposing creating 16 library paring, but instead wants to cut library hurs from 41 to 36 hours per week across the board at all branches.”