Residents try hand at budget ax 

Crime prevention, location and recreation programs were among the most important aspects that make Daly City a great place to live, according to a community survey, but residents would opt to reduce some park and recreation programs as well as library services to save other city needs.

Daly City, along with many other cities in the state and across the nation, is struggling through financial hardship with less income and more expenditures.

“We have a shrinking revenue base,” Daly City Mayor Michael Guingona said. “Now we have to deal with how to deliver the same services we promised to deliver, but with this shrinking economy.”

Last year, Daly City cut roughly $5 million from its $72 million operating budget by eliminating 40 positions, reducing library hours and freezing city officials’ educational and training budgets, according to city documents.

Daly City, the largest city in San Mateo County, has an estimated population of 101,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Additional budget cuts are expected to be discussed by the city council in February. Before making new budget decisions, officials decided — for the first time — to ask residents for their input, Guingona said.

According to the survey of nearly 2,000 people — 80 percent of whom were residents — very few were willing to swing the budget ax. The top response to the question, “What city services would you give up or reduce” to pay for budget priorities, brought in 49 votes for Parks and Recreation programs. Next in line, with only 22 people biting the budget bullet, were votes to cut library services. These questions asked for write-in responses.

Participation for the questions that asked to rank listed factors important in making Daly City “a great place to live” was much higher. According to the survey, crime awareness and prevention, removal of graffiti and litter and recreation and park facilities are the top three contributors.

Guingona said some of his goals as the newly-appointed mayor of Daly City are to thoroughly examine the budget to avoid layoffs, but also to look at current services and how they can be better provided by the city.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said of the budget. “Maybe we can mow our parks once a week instead of twice. But I know that can only go so far.”

Guingona last served as mayor in 2006. He said this time is very different, however.

“We need to assess and reassess anything we do,” Guingona said. “I’m not excited about the idea of having to make cuts, but hopefully we will address some long-term structural deficits.”

At four “Community Values” forums held during September and October — attended by between 35 and 125 residents — those asked about budget tradeoffs were willing to sacrifice some street sweeping, reduce employee salaries and benefits, have less parks maintenance, increase the use of volunteers in place of city staff, and boost fees and taxes.

Making the cut

What three things are most important to you in making Daly City a great place to live?

  Percent Count
Removal of graffiti and litter 42.1 541
Crime awareness/prevention programs 72.1 927
Expanded public transportation 33.0 424
Recreation programs and facilities 39.0 501
Library programs and facilities 29.2 375
Affordable housing opportunities 30.6 393
Stricter code enforcement 25.2 324
Other (please specify) 15.9 205

Respondents: 1,286
*Source: Daly City

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