Budget Woes Plague Cities Across County

By Artie Ojeda
|  Friday, Nov 21, 2008  |  Updated 8:06 AM PDT
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Budget Woes Plague Cities Across County

Spencer Thornburg

City leaders need to find about $30 million dollars or make painful cuts and closures.

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Budget Woes Plague Cities Across County

The city of San Diego's budget deficit has been well publicized. But what about other cities in the county? How hard have they been hit by the economic downturn?
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The city of San Diego's budget deficit has been well publicized. But what about other cities in the county?  How hard have they been hit by the economic downturn?

Poway is actually one of the few cities in the county with a balanced budget.  But that's only after the city made more than $1 million dollars in cuts in September which included 17full-time and two part-time positions.

In every city in San Diego county thriving sales and property taxes are the local government's life-blood. That being the case, most can use a lifeline.

"Some receive a lot of revenue from transient occupancy taxes, hotel taxes, others are more dependent on sales tax. So, in this environment, sales are down," said Alan Gin, economist at the University of San Diego.

  • In La Mesa, the city has a $36-million dollar budget currently with a deficit of $4 million. The city has a travel and training freeze in effect and no vacant city positions are being filled.
  • In Coronado, thanks in part to a reliable, though slowing hotel tax, the budget is balanced.
  • In Escondido, there is an $82 million operating budget with a $4.1 million deficit. The city has proposed a five percent pay cut for 236 city hall employees, library hour reductions and six new police positions may not get filled.
  • El Cajon has a $50 million budget with a deficit of $3 million.  There is a hiring freeze at least through next June.  The city of Santee has a $32.9 million budget with a current $400,000 deficit that will be covered by reserve funds.

Economy experts say even when the news is good it's tempered by bad.  Lower gas prices mean more money in your pocket but less in sales taxes. And there's a potential problem for money generated from property taxes.

"If prices have dropped to below where you bought the house, you can appeal to have the assessed value changed, so as people start doing that, the potential is that city's will potentially take in less property tax revenue," said Alan Gin.

He doesn't project a 'bottoming out' until mid 2009.

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