Maintaining excellent financial health while protecting quality of life as the city adapts to growth and change were key themes during the annual discussion of the city’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. City staff presented the preliminary operating budget to the City Council at its Tuesday meeting.
Each year, staff from all city departments prepare budgets for the coming fiscal year to cover day to day city services, which make up the operating budget. The proposed Capital Improvement Program budget, which covers construction projects and infrastructure, was presented to the City Council May 8. The city will hold a meeting Tuesday, May 29, starting at 6 p.m., to provide an additional opportunity for the public to learn about what is being proposed, ask questions and provide input. The meeting will be held at the city’s Faraday Administration Center, 1635 Faraday Ave. The final budget is scheduled for City Council adoption on June 12.
The preliminary operating budget for FY 2018-19 totals $275.9 million, which represents an increase about 7 percent over last year’s adopted budget. The “general fund” portion of the operating budget, which covers the main day to day city services except for water, wastewater and other services funded through user fees, is $155.5 million, an increase of 6.7 percent. Some of the new areas of spending in the proposed budget include:
Three new police officers
Two new police cars
An increase in funding for school crossing guards
Two police ranger positions to patrol trails, parks and the beach
Narcotics detection training for police dogs
A new online public records portal
A new “innovation” position to help ensure the city is maximizing opportunities to use technology to improve efficiency and customer service
Improved technology in the City Council chamber
A new traffic engineer position to devote more resources to managing traffic flow around the city
Increased services at Leo Carrillo Historic Ranch, Pine Avenue Community Park, Poinsettia Community Park and Aviara Community Park
A new parks superintendent position
Money to cover the cost of changing how the city manages pests and weeds to more natural approaches
Increased resources for code enforcement, including short term vacation rentals
Two new programs that will be added to the budget before its final adoption were presented Tuesday. These include implementation of a new arts and culture master plan and the city’s homeless response plan.
City Administrative Services Director Chuck McBride reported that the city’s main sources of revenue continue to grow:
Property tax revenue is expected to increase by 5.4 percent.
Sales tax revenues have gone up 6 percent in the past year.
The so called “transient occupancy tax,” paid by people staying in city hotels and vacation rentals, has increased almost 11 percent compared to last year’s estimates.
The City Council has a policy to maintain the equivalent of between 30 to 50 percent of its annual operating budget in a rainy day fund called a “general fund reserve account.” The FY 2018-19 budget projects this fund will reach $98 million or 63 percent of the annual operating budget. According to McBride, this money will help ensure the city can maintain a high level of service during future economic downturns and withstand emergencies and natural disasters.