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Big Cut in River Park Funding
Richard Earnest | Mayor Del Mar

 

Illustration Art Olson

San Dieguito River Park’s governing board is struggling with San Diego’s recent move to cut its share of the Park’s operating revenue for the final quarter of this budget year, and next year’s beginning July 1. The cut totals over $368,000, or 36% of the six-member agency contributions.

“I feel like a skunk attending the garden party today,” San Diego City council member Carl DeMaio commented at the January 15th Board meeting. DeMaio and fellow council member Sherri Lightner reiterated their commitment to finding funds in another department after the money was cut from the City’s Park and Recreation budget. “We are on you side and doing everything we can,” he explained. In the meantime, both emphasized that Park staff, as lean as it already is, needs to make cuts now to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Escondido representative Olga Diaz agreed, “Escondido is also considering a mid-year budget crises and everything is on the table.” Our City’s contribution to the River Park has not been mentioned yet, she said, but we need to take action now.

Following a spirited discussion the Board unanimously directed Park staff to implement an employee furlough program as a short-term solution to the cuts. Staff was also directed to identify and plan on suspending all work, including habitat management to comply with the Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) regulations, on San Diego owned lands within the Park as of the date that entity’s contribution ceases.

A detailed line item budget and long-term alternative funding options will be presented at the Board’s meeting this month. These options, according to the staff report, might include the formation of a County Service Area or creation of a countywide recreation district. Becky Bartlett, 22nd District Agricultural Association, indicated the Fairgrounds might contribute a portion of its bingo proceeds as a new revenue source, if Del Mar approved its application.

The Park Board is made up of representatives from the County of San Diego and the five cities bordering the River Park with each contributing toward its operation. To date San Diego is the only member to eliminate its contribution. Failure to find other funding could result in a bare bones staff and loss of the Park’s ability to generate grant funds (over $157 million in outside revenue since 1989) as well as management of historic sites including the Sikes Adobe Museum scheduled for its Grand Re-Opening June 26th after the devastating 2007 fires.

Editors Note: Del Mayor Earnest is currently serving as Chair of the Board that also includes representatives from the County, the cities of San Diego, Solana Beach, Escondido and Poway.


 
 

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