City Looks to Port District to Help Avert Layoffs : Budget: San Diego could recover up to $10 million by having the district take responsibility for maintenance of its own properties, according to mayor.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city of San Diego might not have to lay off any of its employees if the Board of Port Commissioners agrees to take over maintenance of the Convention Center and other Port District-owned properties, Mayor Maureen O'Connor said Thursday.

After a city plan to tap into Port District cash reserves to defray San Diego's $18-million deficit fell through earlier this week, O'Connor suggested that the city try to recover up to $10 million that goes to maintain Port District-owned properties.

The city is seeking to shift financial responsibility at the sites back to the Port District. The savings would be put toward keeping city employee ranks intact.

The city manager's office last month proposed eliminating 231 city positions, including 178 layoffs, to help reduce the city budget by $18 million in the 1993 fiscal year that began July 1.

City Manager Jack McGrory's plan also would cut back the police and fire departments, the city attorney's office, city planning, recreation and lifeguard services and city-funded arts programs.

The largest layoff in city history since the Depression could be avoided, McGrory said, if the Port District money comes through. The city needs to make up a $12-million reduction in state revenue and a $6-million decline in city tax revenue tied to the sluggish economy.

The City Council voted Thursday to table discussion about the budget until 3:30 p.m. Oct. 20, following a Port District meeting where the city will present its plan for negotiating new contracts.

If the city is successful in renegotiating $10 million in operational contracts, all jobs targeted for elimination would be spared, as would some programs, McGrory said.

Before Thursday's budget discussion was closed, each council member spoke on behalf of items on the proposed cut list that they wanted spared if the money can be found.

Council members Bob Filner, George Stevens, Abbe Wolfsheimer, Valerie Stallings and Mayor O'Connor spoke in favor of lowering the 15% across-the-board cut on tax-generated funding for arts programs.

Stevens called for maintaining community-based police patrols and after-hours supervisors at school playgrounds. Roberts advocated keeping in place revenue-generating programs such as a city events trust. He also said he would press for maintaining an $80,000 assistance fund for victims of crime.

Filner and Wolfsheimer advocated keeping the council committee system they said gives constituents better access to the city legislative process.

Since the proposed cuts were announced, several city employee groups have suggested cost-saving measures, McGrory said. The Municipal Employees Assn., which represents most of the clerical and analytical staff, has tentatively agreed to a five-day unpaid work furlough for all members. City firefighters have agreed to no pay raises next year.

In anticipation of the meeting with the Port District, city officials will try to identify other items in the city budget that may be trimmed, O'Connor said. Final decisions will remain on hold until Oct. 20.

"It is asking people a lot to make them wait," O'Connor said. "But I think it will be worth the wait."

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