Finance Director John Quinn says city budget tight but workable

June 11, 2008
Santa Paula News

The city budget is tight but workable, those attending Good Morning Santa Paula learned from Finance Director John Quinn at the May meeting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe city budget is tight but workable, those attending Good Morning Santa Paula learned from Finance Director John Quinn at the May meeting. “One of the biggest challenges facing the city is keeping track of the finances,” noted Chamber President/CEO John Blanchard, who introduced Quinn.“The budget is very fluid right now,” although Quinn noted that due to headlines noting that “times are tough, no growth and the trickle-down from the state is impacting our General Fund.” The city’s balanced budget includes reserves that can be used for unexpected and unavoidable shortfalls, but Quinn said the present budget does not foresee layoffs, although “2009-2010 will be much worse.”The state and its citizens are being impacted by a housing market “in turmoil, the dollar is weak,” rising energy costs, and the “monumental debt” being accrued by residents using credit cards to cover living expenses. “Unfortunately, the impact on the city budget is profound; there’s no relief in sight from the state budget,” in spite of laws crafted to protect cities from money grabs as the state deals with a projected $14 billion shortfall.Quinn noted that state’s fiscal crisis has already delayed payments made to the city, including a monthly allotment of tax share which the state has “promised” that the already five months worth withheld will be paid in full in September. It’s a dubious pledge complicated by numerous other shifts in funding responsibility that the state is passing to counties and cities.
“It looks like the state is still working very diligently to see what it can get from cities,” said Quinn. Santa Paula General Fund will be impacted in the negative by about 2 percent while expenditures are more than 5 percent, leading to a projected deficit of about $500,000. The city continues to experience limited growth, and even with the Limoneira East Area 1 development positive impacts won’t materialize for about two years for the city that has experienced less than 1 percent annual growth for decades.Quinn noted that before he joined the city he had been employed by Coachella, the “exact opposite... it doubled its population in five years” and hit the magic number of 40,000 residents that attracted big box retailers. “Now, they have a lot of vacant houses,” and although that city “still has a little bit of money, the problem with boom times is they give a false sense of security.... Fortunately Santa Paula hasn’t had a lot of money to begin with,” so losses have been far less dramatic.Rising expenses include benefits - “taking a toll on all cities, including Santa Paula” - but “fortunately, the city has been very frugal,” and amassed a reserve of about $2 million. The city will continue to tackle capital projects such as water system infrastructure and gas tax funded street paving, among others.Although the city is looking to improve things and is examining banding with other cities to pool resources on certain projects, one thing is for sure: “We will have a balanced budget,” said Quinn, “and there won’t be any layoffs.”

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