Budget Hammer Falls in San Jose

Nothing pretty in the numbers here

San Jose City Council members have approved a variety of mid-year budget and service cuts to help the city recalibrate its budget in the face  of shrinking revenues and a sour economy.

"We are seeing very real impacts locally that must be addressed immediately," said City Manager Debra Figone, who manages the budget process.  "These are required to avoid more dire impacts in 2010."

While city Budget Director Jennifer Maguire said, "overall finances are sound," the city is facing an operating budget gap of $9 million  for this fiscal year, roughly 1 percent of the total operating budget. To  help close this gap, Maguire proposed the city eliminate a total of 88.5  staff positions, although all but 12 of the jobs are currently vacant.

Mineta San Jose International Airport will lose 52 positions, along with three spots in the fire department and two in the police  department. The public works department will lose 28.5 positions.

The airport's budget is separate from the city's general fund, operating on money it generates from the airplanes and passengers who use the  facility. Revenues have declined as air travel has decreased in recent  months.

Maguire said the city is working to relocate the 12 employees into  different positions within the city, when appropriate.

Mayor Chuck Reed allowed that the 1 percent adjustment "is one we  wish we didn't have to make, but it's a lot less than other cities."

On Wednesday, Reed joins mayors from Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles in Washington, D.C., to advocate for additional federal dollars.

The mid-year budget report also contained a slate of proposed cuts in various departments, designed to minimize the impact on residents and  services.

City spokesman Tom Manheim said these cuts present challenges for city departments to maintain their current service levels. Residents may have  to wait in some longer lines, he said, especially at the airport.

"What you'll probably see is the maintenance of the facility isn't happening as often there," he said.

City Council members questioned staff on a variety of revenue sources and proposed cuts before approving the proposal unanimously.

Councilman Kansen Chu expressed regret that the cuts included funds for some of the city's traffic calming studies, which he said prove  very useful in his district. Councilwoman Nora Campos asked for confirmation  that eliminated positions could be reinstated quickly if the need, and the  money, arises.

Councilman Pete Constant thanked Figone, Maguire and their staff for wading through an unpleasant, but important task.

"There have been no easy answers, and no silver bullet," he said.

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