It is the fourth consecutive year the City Council will be forced to fill a major gap in the General Fund — which supports basic services like police, libraries and parks — as the city continues to see rising employee-related costs and stagnant revenues during the protracted recession.
City executives have gone department by department to rank all city services as discretionary, priority or essential. An initial budget proposal calls for $4.1 million in service cuts citywide, which will likely mean the slashing of all discretionary programs and potential employee layoffs.
“Discretionary doesn’t mean the staff doesn’t believe they aren’t important to the community,” said City Manager Jim Starbird. “We made them go through a forced ranking to see what are the most important.”
The preliminary list of $1.3 million in proposed cuts to Community Services & Parks also includes the elimination of roughly four full-time and four hourly employees.
Among services not proposed for elimination are: summer aquatics programming at Hoover High School and the soon-to-open Pacific Park Pool, park maintenance, programming at the Adult Recreation Center and holiday lights and decorations.
Mayor Laura Friedman said she would struggle with evaluating proposed cuts to programs like life-skills workshops for at-risk teenagers since city officials have not tracked their effectiveness.
“For now, we are presented with this list of programs that all sound great, but could be in actuality a complete waste,” Friedman said.
Many on the dais said they were hesitant to discuss the proposed cuts without seeing proposals from other departments and discussing other budget balancing strategies.
“I’m not going to be looking at cuts without looking at the whole,” said Councilman Frank Quintero.