San Diego

San Diego mayor signs $5.8B budget, up 12% from '23, includes funds for mega shelter

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria

Mayor Todd Gloria Friday officially signed into law the $5.82 billion Fiscal Year 2025 "Protecting Our Progress" budget passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this week.

The budget passed Tuesday includes revisions to the initial March budget proposal, as well as recommendations from the city's Independent Budget Analyst. The budget represents a nearly 12% increase over the $5.12 billion budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

"From the start of the process, my commitment to San Diegans was clear: We will navigate our way through these challenging financial circumstances and protect the progress we have made on our top challenges. Together, we've done that," Gloria said. "I'm grateful for the partnership with the City Council in delivering this fiscally responsible budget that continues to move our city forward. This budget truly represents our shared vision, hard work, and unwavering dedication to making our city the best it can be."

March's initial $5.65 billion budget proposal received mixed reviews from the San Diego City Council and the public, which called out cuts to equity programs, police and fire academies and some parks and libraries.

Through a public engagement process which several council members called the most "robust" they had seen in decades of service, many initially proposed cuts were ultimately rolled back, despite the city facing a $172 million deficit tied to the end of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

"San Diegans rely on the services in this budget, and despite difficult financial headwinds, the City Council came together to protect these programs, and the mayor ensured their preservation by quickly signing this document into law," said Councilman Kent Lee, who chairs the council's budget committee. "I thank my council colleagues and Mayor Gloria for adopting a final budget that prioritizes housing affordability, homelessness, road repair, and public safety -- while also addressing numerous community investments including direct support for flood victims, library and park enhancements, and support for at-risk youth."

The Protecting Our Progress budget includes a roughly $28 million increase in homelessness services funding, including Gloria's plans to turn H Barracks, the city-owned former Navy land adjacent to the San Diego International Airport, into around 200 spaces as part of the San Diego's Safe Parking Program, as well as the proposed 1,000-bed shelter at Kettner and Vine.

The latter project has generated public debate, with multiple closed-door meetings to discuss its feasibility but no public hearings as of yet. A group of protesters planned to gather Friday afternoon to decry what they called a lack of public input on the lengthy lease project.

"That we would allocate [Community Development Block Grants] to the shelter when there has been no discussion does not sit right with me," Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said Tuesday. "This proposal is far superior from the mayor's proposed budget but it in no way signals support for the 1,000-bed shelter."

The proposals come at a time when a ticking clock means the Golden Hall men's shelter must close before the end of the year, and with it the more than 250 beds. Father Joe's Villages announced this week it was planning to transition its Paul Mirabile Center and 350 beds for homeless San Diegans into a detox center.

Those actions combined could result in a loss of 600 beds at a time when homelessness continues to increase throughout the county.

Since the initially proposed budget, Gloria took other actions to save money, including suspending non-essential spending in city departments, as well as taking action to ensure the city is filling "only the most critical positions" before the end of the fiscal year.

Additionally, Gloria proposed sweeping balances from some special funds into the city's general fund, suspending contributions to reserves and using one-time measures such as requesting that the San Diego Housing Commission use $15 million in its reserves to partially fund existing programs.

Items added Tuesday include $8.4 million general-fund expenditure modifications such as $3 million for the city's community equity fund for Jan. 22 flood victims and $1 million for a youth care and development program. The additions were offset by $8.4 million in revenue sources, backed up as realistic by San Diego's Independent Budget Analyst Charles Modica.

According to Modica, the cuts in this year's budget are planned as one-time slashes to the budget, but next year may see more significant, permanent cuts unless San Diego can secure another source of revenue.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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