Stop me if this sounds familiar. The City of San Diego’s projected $54-60 million budget shortfall, closed via pay cuts and the magic budget fairy. So great I guess, but it turns out somebody forgot that there’s a recession on, cause the shortfall is gonna be at least $70 million now:
Thanks to falling property taxes, lower-than-projected hotel taxes and the possibility of a state raid on city coffers, San Diego will face a budget gap for the upcoming year that is significantly larger than the $60 million shortfall that was the basis of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ original budget proposal just last month. Before that budget was released, the mayor said late last year that the gap would be $54 million.
That magic budget fairy was nice the first time, but probably “oops, oh yeah” isn’t going to fly much longer.
This latest downward revision is further evidence that city officials have been slow to accept the severity of this recession. “Maybe this will be our last round of, ‘Oh sorry, we were off, let’s update it,'” Councilman Carl DeMaio said of the city’s revenue estimates.
In recent weeks, the city has been shown to be off on estimates of major revenue sources, most recently property taxes. The city’s initial budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year included a 1 percent increase in property taxes, but the county assessor said last week that property tax revenues countywide are expected to fall by 2.5 percent, an unprecedented drop.
So basically, math is hard. So is understanding the function of city government. I wish we could vote to hire someone whose specific job is to understand these things and hire a staff devoted to exactly that. We could call that person “mayor” or something.
Meanwhile, the updated $70 million gap doesn’t include the impact of the state raiding local property tax revenues. That’d only happen if the Props fail on Tuesday of course, so we shouldn’t peg it as more than like…90% probable. No reason to plan for that- it’s only as much as $36 million. At which point, waddya know? The deficit that Mayor Sanders originally said would be $54 million is up to at least $106 million. Now I’m not a mathematician by trade, but if the gap doubles, that’s bad. Especially since there probably aren’t bags of money laying around anymore.
Incidentally, forcing pay cuts into new labor contracts seems a lot less noble now that it’s pretty clear that layoffs were inevitable and easy to project from the get-go.