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Faulconer begins 'new chapter' with budget

Capping one of the fastest and least contentious budget processes in recent memory, Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed San Diego's $2.97 billion budget less than a day after its 8-1 passage by the City Council, touting it as a "new chapter" for the city.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the budget — which was signed on Faulconer's 100th day in the mayor's office — increases municipal spending after a long string of cutbacks caused by pension shortfalls and economic downturns.

Armed with greater than expected revenues from sales, tourism and property taxes, Faulconer and the City Council restored and expanded civic infrastructure services —police, fire, libraries, parks and street repairs — as well as adding to the city's rainy day reserves.

Faulconer said the budget was designed to direct funding to every district in the city, to "ensure that all residents have equal access to economic prosperity, quality services and safe neighborhoods."

Faulconer was joined by city officials who praised the budget as the best they'd seen in recent years.

Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Mainar said the budget will fund firefighting equipment, allow for the hiring of 90 new firefighters, cut wait times for emergency services, reduce mandatory overtime for workers and "expand services to communities that have been traditionally underserved," such as the Skyline and Encanto neighborhoods, which will get new emergency facilities.

"It's a wonderful day," said Deborah Barrow, director of the city's library system.

The libraries received the most funding in a decade, which will allow the central branch to remain open five hours longer each week, with additions of from 4 to 8½ hours in the branches.

Barrow said she was impressed not only by the amount of funding the libraries got but also by the smooth process that allowed the budget to sail through City Hall with few rough spots and wide bipartisan support.

"I can't remember a budget being signed the day after the council voted on it," she said.

The sole holdout on budget supporters was David Alvarez, still stinging from last week's ballot defeat of his rezoning proposal for Barrio Logan.

Alvarez — who Faulconer defeated in a mayoral race in February — complained that the neighborhoods in his district, which include Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Ocean View Hills and San Ysidro, were not getting a fair share of the funds.

But the budget's defenders, who include his fellow Democrats, suggest that his criticism is premature, since a large part of the funds — including for street and sidewalk repairs — have not yet been allocated to specific neighborhoods.

Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner praised the budget as being "the best I've seen since taking office six years ago." And Faulconer insisted that "there is something for each and every San Diegan and every neighborhood in this budget."

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