The San Diego City Council on Monday unanimously voted to pass Mayor Todd Gloria's roughly $4.6 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, an increase of more than $537 million -- or 13.4% -- over last year's spending plan.
"I want to thank the city council for their unanimous support of my budget that aims to get San Diego back on track,'' Gloria said. "We have significant work ahead of us to solve our city's biggest challenges: Making housing more affordable, ending homelessness, fostering an equitable recovery and fixing our roads. This budget sets us on the path to do that together.''
Much of FY22's increase -- around $400 million -- is attributed to the Pure Water Project. However, a not-insignificant $23 million increase to the San Diego Police Department's budget was made despite dozens of calls asking the council to defund the SDPD's overtime allocation by at least $10 million -- echoing 2020's marathon council session following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Much of the police budget increase comes as part of non-discretionary spending, such as pensions, over which Gloria has little say. The budget does cut police overtime by $4 million.
The city has increased the SDPD's budget for the last 10 years, an increase of more than $200 million since 2011.
Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe called into question some of the council meeting rules, particularly the fact that she could not publicly discuss her proposal to reallocate SDPD funding to other crisis prevention and diversionary methods such as homeless outreach and mental health crisis teams.
Councilman Chris Cate, the budget committee's chair, had proposed a discussion of the budget, and procedural rules dictated only one substantive issue could be discussed at one time. In short, Montgomery Steppe could not discuss her proposal to the budget because the council was in the process of discussing the budget.
A friendly amendment to reallocate the funding without a discussion was denied by Cate.
"I don't think everybody is getting absolutely everything they wanted in this budget, but that's OK,'' Cate said.
Several other councilmembers also expressed their discomfort with the procedure, but all nine ultimately voted to approve the spending plan.
"I am deeply disappointed that we did not seize the opportunity to have the discussion on reallocating police funding to nonprofits that address homelessness, youth success programs and other investments that could have been poured into programs that truly aid crime prevention like graffiti and weed abatement, additional streetlights, sidewalks improvements and code enforcement officers,'' Montgomery Steppe said.
"My motion to cut $6 million from the police overtime budget was not a cut in public safety, it was an effort to make funding available for an investment in crime prevention,'' she said. "This investment was the path forward to begin the process of holistically and proactively addressing public safety in our communities of concern.''
Gloria was facing a projected budget deficit of $124 million after he took office in December. The budget gap was closed with an increase in projected revenue and $306 million in federal coronavirus relief funding being given to the city over the next two years.
The initial budget proposal was hammered by the city council and public alike for a proposal to cut city library hours to five days a week as a cost-saving measure.
Councilwoman Vivian Moreno fought against the cuts, particularly to underserved communities like those in her district.
"I have been with the city for over 10 years, and I can say with certainty that this is the best budget the communities of District 8 have seen during that time,'' she said. "From the beginning of our budget process, I have consistently said that we should not have been cutting services that our residents rely on such as library hours, weed abatement services or arts programming.
"This budget prioritizes funding for community services and infrastructure needs,'' Moreno added. "Restoring those services in this budget is very important as we continue to recover from the pandemic.''
Between Gloria's revised May budget that added $73 million to the spending plan and Monday, council members advocated for issues important to them, including the establishment of the Office of Child and Youth Success -- a new department advocated by Councilmen Raul Campillo and Sean Elo-Rivera -- at a cost of $350,000 for the first year.
"San Diego greatly lacks access to quality affordable childcare and lacks access to resources for youth services,'' Campillo said. "The need for an Office of Child and Youth Success existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and we've only seen that need grown since March of 2020. We can and must invest more of our city's resources with children and youth in mind. And by establishing this office, we are going to leverage our assets to make our city a great place to grow up and raise a family.''
Elo-Rivera expressed similar sentiments.
"Under the new leadership of this council and mayor, the inclusion of funding for the Office of Child and Youth Success in our budget is an investment in providing every young person a quality foundation,'' he said. "However, simply funding the office isn't enough. We must tap into the brilliance and power of San Diego's children and youth -- many of whom led the advocacy for this office -- by including them in every step of the office's development and implementation.''
Other projects were tacked on Monday by various council members as a result of unallocated American Rescue Plan and general funds, including $250,000 for four full-time code enforcement officers; $140,000 for a Real Estate Assets Department program coordinator; $300,000 for the Oak Park library design phase; $250,000 for a joint-use park with the San Diego Unified School District; and $500,000 to help fund a public power feasibility study.
Other priorities being funded include:
- $10 million to build "sexy'' streets in historically underserved communities, with another $30 million planned to come from debt proceeds
- Reorganizing the city's executive team to save $784,000 annually;
- More than $10 million for immediate actions to combat the homelessness crisis, and funding to support the new Homelessness Strategies Department
- $10 million in nonprofit and small business loans in hard-hit industries and owned by people of color
- Increased funding for the No Shots Fired gang-prevention program and additional community and youth-focused diversion programming
- Creating a Summer for All of Us program to help children and their families take part in activities at libraries and recreation centers in communities of concern
- Building the first phase of the Pure Water recycling program, which is intended to provide nearly half of the city's drinking water by 2045
- Updates to the Climate Action Plan
- Investing $7 million into the new Climate Equity Fund