San Diego

City Arts, Culture Stakeholders Challenge Mayor's Budget Cuts

It's another financially troubling time at San Diego's City Hall.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's latest budget proposal is leaking red ink.

And the City Council is hearing from unhappy "stakeholders" trying to save their funding.

The annual budget review process is when councilmembers really fight for their constituencies, hoping the mayor can balance specific wish lists with his overall priorities before reaching a final spending plan.

"Community services" such as street upgrades reflect where Faulconer wants to direct big bucks.

He's calling for the largest investment in so-called "infrastructure" projects in the last decade.

But $44 million in cuts are needed in the $1.4 billion general fund budget, because of unexpectedly high costs such as pensions and personnel expenses.

So the fiscal knife is targeting arts and culture programs, looking to slice nearly a third of last year's $14 million outlay.

While the rest is still more than those programs got three years ago, it's not acceptable to members of the arts community.

Dozens took their case to City Hall on Monday -- both outside for a protest demonstration on Civic Center Plaza, and inside the Council chamber.

Council members reviewing the mayor's proposals heard Barry Edelstein, artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre, stress the programs' importance here and far beyond.

“The Globe and our colleagues are doing national-level work in arts engagement -- bringing the arts to populations that are socially and culturally diverse around our city. That's the stuff that these cuts are going to hurt.!"

The Council's response to the mayor's proposals are expected in a week or so.

City budget analysts already are warning of big deficits in the following fiscal year.

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