Newly adopted city budget gives boost to lifeguards, libraries, parks and police
by DAVE SCHWAB
Jun 20, 2014 | 1280 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The news is mostly good for public safety, infrastructure improvements and parks and libraries in San Diego City Council District 2’s beach areas, as the city’s adopted 2014 budget devotes more funding to those areas which have largely gone wanting in recent more fiscally lean times.

Among other things the new budget, which takes effect July 1, adds five hours a week at the Central Library and four hours a week at branch libraries, keeping them open more hours than they’ve been in a decade.

The city’s adopted 2014 budget also will bring police staffing to 2,000 in fiscal 2015 — higher than it's been in at least four years. The new budget also will increase, from 34 to 43, recruits at police academies.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s adopted budget proposal also beefs up public safety by providing raises for police officer’s to improve retention, purchasing body cameras for officers, creation of two more fire fighter academies and appropriating $600,000 for the Fire-Rescue Department’s Fast Response Program, which are two-person, fast-response squads in neighborhoods relatively far from fire stations, allowing them to arrive at emergencies earlier than standard four-person fire engines located farther away.

Faulconer came up with $12 million more in additional revenue than he anticipated in this year’s budget and wants to spend it on parks and other neighborhood services. That extra money comes from revised predictions about how much money the city will make in fiscal 2015, including a $7.2 million increase in projected property-tax revenue and $1.4 million extra in hotel-room taxes, the mayor's office said.

San Diego Lifeguard chief Rick Wurts said he liked what he sees in the fiscal year 2015 budget, noting it has several additions designed to improve lifeguard operations.

“The first improvement is the addition of one daily lifeguard 24- hour shift at the Boating Safety Unit (BSU),” Wurts said, noting the BSU conducts a wide variety of boating rescue and enforcement functions.

“It also serves as support to all other lifeguard districts within the city during periods of increased activity or emergency incidents. This will provide enhanced staffing in support of boating operations and relieve the strain placed on the BSU during periods where personnel resources are stretched or depleted,” he said.

The Lifeguard Division is also receiving $500,000 to relocate the Park and Recreation Department’s carpenter shop at Quivira Basin to another city facility.

“The carpenter shop space at Quivira Basin will then be converted into a locker room and sleep quarters for members of the BSU who work the 24-hour shift,” he said. “Currently, they are being housed in trailer facilities.

Another $60,000 is being provided to purchase and install three boat motors needed for a lifeguard fire boat.

“We are extremely grateful to the mayor and City Council for the exceptional support they give to all public safety in San Diego,” said Wurts. “These additional resources will certainly enhance Lifeguard Division capabilities and allow us to provide even stronger service to the community.”

Interim District 2 City Councilman Ed Harris said this year’s city budget also provides help for council districts 1 and 2 in public park management with funding for a new coastal park ranger.

“That ranger will be splitting time between Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park,” Harris said, adding he’d like to see “more concentration by law enforcement on code enforcement.”

Harris said he’s also working on enforcing the city’s new ordinance on medical-marijuana dispensaries, which places them almost exclusively in industrial-zoned areas removed from schools or youth-oriented facilities.

“One of our biggest issues is illegal, seemingly unchecked dispensaries,” Harris said, adding he’s asking for monthly reports on dispensaries which indicate steps are being taken to ultimately close them down once legal dispensaries under the new city ordinance are in place.

The city is using increased revenues from property, sales and hotel taxes and franchise fees in a steadily improving economy to address new infrastructure woes that include projects to improve stormwater infrastructure and drainage, sidewalk and street light improvements, enhancing pothole repair and updates to neighborhood community plans.

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