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The Vanishing Budget Savings

Mayor Bob Filner and other city leaders hailed five-year labor deals they said would save more than $20 million but the city’s pension board had other plans Friday.

For weeks, city leaders hailed more than $20 million in budget savings expected in the next year thanks to five-year labor deals reached with the city’s labor unions.

All that back-patting gave way to a mad dash to change plans Friday, after the city’s pension board opted not to reduce the city’s pension bill for the upcoming year.

Now those anticipated savings won’t come until 2015.

The city’s pension board considered Friday whether to recalculate the city’s pension bill for the upcoming year in light of the savings assumed along with the five-year, pensionable pay freezes laid out in its labor deals.

Ultimately, only six board members voted to tweak the bill, short of the seven needed to provide the savings the city sought.

This has immediate budget impacts for the new fiscal year that begins Monday.

  • The city must pull from its rainy-day fund to cover about $10 million in compensation hikes for city staffers.
  • Plans to add three weekly hours at the Central Library and four at the city’s branch libraries won’t go forward.
  • The city can only send 136 police recruits to the academy, instead of the planned 144.
  • Planned improvements to campground and visitors center at the Mission Trails Regional Park aren’t happening.

The shifts came amid a handful of crises for Mayor Bob Filner. At a Friday press conference, reporters pummeled him with questions about accusations of quid pro quo with a developerstaff resignations and an unannounced trip to Paris.

But only one of those crises added up to more than $20 million.

Filner, who championed the five-year labor deals in light of the $20 million savings, said Friday he’d like to find out whether the pension board can reconsider.

“We had been working on the assumption for five months that we would have that money,” Filner said.

That appears unlikely.

Mark Hovey, CEO of the city’s pension system, said the board has no immediate plans to revisit the city’s pension bill. The board isn’t scheduled to meet again until Aug.9.

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