LOS ANGELES — After five years of failing to garner support for a $5 billion property tax-backed bond measure, San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey has found a method of funding city street repairs and public buildings that his colleagues appear to support.
The City Council's infrastructure committee, which Kersey chairs, voted 3-1 on Wednesday to forward a proposed June 2016 infrastructure ballot measure to the full City Council for consideration next month.
The Rebuild San Diego measure would use future sales tax revenue and pension savings to help tackle the nearly $4 billion in repairs needed to all city assets including streets and public buildings.
The ballot measure proposes a charter amendment that would allow diversion of an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion in general fund money to these projects over the next 30 years.
"Infrastructure is a core responsibility of city government and this measure ensures we will have a long-term source of funding to rebuild San Diego's neighborhoods now and for future generations," Kersey said in a statement.
If voters approve the measure, San Diegans will never again have to worry about politicians allowing the city to deteriorate by not dedicating enough resources to infrastructure improvements and maintenance, he said.
The measure would require that half of all new general fund revenue growth be committed to infrastructure investments over the next 10 years.
All general fund sales tax above a fiscal year 2016 baseline would go for infrastructure projects. The baseline would grow annually to avoid overburdening other city services.
The measure would also dedicate 100% of net savings from pension reforms to infrastructure projects over the next 30 years.
The council's Infrastructure Committee asked the city's financial staff to provide further analysis ahead of review by the entire council.
The ballot measure would amend the city charter to require a large percentage of sales tax growth and all savings from voter-approved pension reform over the next 30 years be spent on new parks, libraries, fire stations and street repairs. It would also preserve half of all new major general fund growth over the next 10 years for infrastructure.
The proposal is well-timed, according to Kersey, because the city has spent the last two years assessing its infrastructure and streamlining how it handles upgrades and repairs, saving the city millions of dollars.
The requirements will not impact the city financially during a financial downturn, because sales tax will only be dedicated to infrastructure when it's increasing.
The council members discussed adding a fail-safe in which the spending restrictions could be curtailed during a financial downturn with a two-thirds council vote.
The new approach is superior to the $5 billion bond measure Kersey previously proposed, because it doesn't require a tax increase, he said. A bond measure would have resulted in property tax increases, he said.
The council did approve the sale of $120 million in lease revenue bonds. The city sold $107.2 million in lease revenue bonds in April at a 5% interest rate.