City of S.Paula Finance director says budget news ‘cautiously optimistic’

October 23, 2009
Santa Paula City Council

The Council had some good news when the city’s finance director told them at the October 19 meeting that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future state of city coffers, although time will still tell.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe Council had some good news when the city’s finance director told them at the October 19 meeting that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future state of city coffers, although time will still tell.Finance Director John Quinn’s report on the first quarter of the 2009-2010 budget was welcome news to the Council, which - as with other cities throughout the cash-strapped state - has struggled through the national economic downturn that hit California about the hardest.As time passes, “Things are getting a little more clear” on what he state is doing and, noted Quinn, “What they can do in the near future ... “Quinn said the city is maintaining the “status quo” of watching tightened budgets, holding off on hiring, requiring city manager review of all expenditures of more than $1,000 and department head approval of all overtime.On one hand, “I’m happy to report overtime is in pretty good shape compared to last year,” although when the present budget cycle is compared to 2008 “it is very clear some budget revenues items have dropped significantly.”Quinn said the state legislature is currently considering a bond issue to cover takeaways to counties and cities.“I think we can absorb that,” city-wise now at about $400,000, and the bond issue, although requiring upfront financing, could be reconsidered later if necessary.Unemployment is still an issue in Santa Paula and countywide where the latter’s ranking has fallen from its normal 11th out of the 58 California counties to about 11th.“We’re not out of the woods yet,” as Quinn said unemployment “seems to be the biggest area that has to be improved before we see real economic recovery.”Overall, “We’re still even at this point - let’s stay status quo and not make any moves,” until after property tax revenue is calculated.Quinn said January’s second quarter budget report would set the path for the second half and “if we need to we will have further recommendations for salary and other adjustments,” already addressed as future cost-saving moves.“The good news is there is a slight recovery ... Santa Paula has been hit but not knocked down as hard as other cities. There have been some hiccups along the way,” but said Quinn compared to other cities Santa Paula is “doing very well” in weathering the financial storm.
Councilman Fred Robinson asked if the development application for Paseo Santa Barbara, the 90-unit Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) apartment complex, has realized any application fees.Meetings with the city and CEDC are ongoing, said Fire Chief Rick Araiza and, “Pretty soon,” when plans are finalized initial development fees could be about $180,000.Overall, the project will generate about $300,000.“Last week with all the rain we took in a significant amount of fees for new roofs,” he added. “It was a good month for the building and safety department.”Robinson asked if the projected revenue was included in the budget.One-time money is considered just that and Quinn said such funds, although needed, could not be used to hire back employees.“I will,” he added, “pray for rain ... “Vice Mayor Jim Tovias asked if restrictions are placed on expenditures of development fees.Such fees, said Quinn, can be used for capacity improvements and infrastructure but not for operation and maintenance needs.Typically such fees for new development go to “some nexus” to the project such as to build a “road out in the front” to public landscaping.Although cautiously optimist Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre said such news is welcome although “I am sure you would come to us as soon as it seems we might go south ... “The Council was complimentary on Quinn’s report and expertise and Interim City Manager Cliff Finley thanked the Council “because of your quick action” in trimming about $600,000 from the budget, the only reason news was “cautiously” good.

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