City Council: Mid-year budget update before next 3-year cycle studied

April 10, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

Due to a strengthening national economy the city’s mid-year budget is looking better, the City Council learned at the April 1 meeting where they heard an update on city finances and realized they better start thinking of goals and priorities for the coming three-year budget planning cycle.

But, according to Finance Director Sandy Easley, it is good news that has to be tempered with fiscal realities including more revenue from property and sales taxes but less income from other sources. “The good news is overall we are doing better than expected,” said Easley, although there are bumps in the fiscal road.

Easley reported that budgeted revenue of $11,386,452 is projected to fall short and be only $11,175,943 at the budget year’s end. But budgeted expenses of $11,207,400 are estimated to be only $10,340,385. The budgeted ending balance is $179,052, but Easley said the amount is estimated to actually be at $835,558 leaving an increase in the estimated ending balance of $656,506.

Unemployment is down and the “housing market seems to be improving slowly but surely,” which will only benefit Santa Paula in the long run, but “franchise fee revenue is not coming in as budgeted,” offsetting positive gains for now, “and other citywide revenues are stagnant.” Such franchise fees that Easley later wrote are falling short are garnered from trash, cable and other utility companies that do business with the city and its residents. 

Expenditures are down, with positions - primarily police officers - going unfilled; maintenance for the most part is still deferred. The staffing gaps account for some below budget data, although Easley said hiring is expected. 

All departments have been asked to report on needs - from new roofs to computers - that will be discussed at the May 6 council meeting.

Council members had questions about the report, including Councilman Jim Tovias, who noted the “encouraging” numbers showing that Santa Paula’s unemployment had decreased from about 18 percent to approximately 14 percent. 

Spears was recently approved to open a branch of its plastic pipe fitting/accessories manufacturing business at the former International Paper building, which last year shut down causing 60 people to lose their jobs. When asked, Easley said the estimated impact of 150 new jobs on the unemployment rate would be a 1 percent decrease.

Councilman Martin Hernandez said he had a concern with the shortage of police officers and “the huge potential impacts on our public safety” and perception of the city. “I know these positions have been up for awhile,” and Hernandez urged that the recruitment be “ramped up,” or council be made aware of what is stalling hiring.

Mayor Ralph Fernandez agreed, noting if there are recruitment issues they will be addressed.

There was also discussion of one-time revenues and reliance on same before the council moved to accept the report.

Easley later wrote that there are 28 sworn officer positions budgeted for the Santa Paula Police Department, and the four openings include the police chief and a lieutenant position. In past years, the city had topped out at 34 sworn officer positions being budgeted. The SPPD was also authorized to have up to 30 reserve officers as well as 10 technical reserve officers; such reserves are paid a stipend.

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