Redwood City’s finances are on stronger footing than the past but threats like pension and worker costs and the departure of auto dealerships remain concerns, city officials said at a mid-year budget update Monday night.
“The financial situation has improved but it’s still shaky,” City Manager Bob Bell told the City Council before it received a detailed breakdown of the money coming in and out of its coffers.
The City Council will hold a budget study session June 9 and consider adopting it at the Monday, June 23 meeting.
At Monday night’s meeting, Finance Director Brian Ponty explained that 60 percent of the general fund is due to property and sales taxes which are both in stronger positions because of higher assessed values and a 24 percent increase in auto sales tax over fiscal year 2011-12. The tax — one of the budget’s “bright components,” Ponty said — contributed $23.5 million in general fund revenue.
However, the dealers are always complaining about the lack of land, Ponty said.
Councilwoman Diane Howard suggested the council’s economic subcommittee take a look at the danger of losing the dealerships and Mayor Jeff Gee agreed, noting that the businesses are “very land intensive” and in competition with other uses for limited space.
“Given the economic pressures and our vision we have to find a way to reconcile that,” Gee said.
Other possible threats to the city’s finances include property tax inflation factors, public safety overtime, changes in future employee contributions to the retirement system and decreases in the extra property tax returned from the state.
The funds, known as Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds, are projected at $4.6 million in 2013-14 but drop to an estimated $2.5 million in 2015-16.
The development related revenue — planning checks and fees among them — are estimated to increase 4.7 percent in 2013-14 but drop 14 percent in 2014-16.
The bottom line is an estimated operating surplus of $4.3 million which will continue out about five years until Public Employee Retirement System rates are expected to go up, Ponty said.
The City Council took no action Monday on Ponty’s and Bell’s presentation but Ponty is recommending it transfer at least $2.5 million from the general fund to the workers compensation budget to reach the minimum recommended funding level of 70 percent. Ponty recommended holding all other fund balances as protection against the “other economic and financial threats that are out there.”
Looking to the future, Bell said one challenge for the city will be continuing to provide an expected level of service with a growing population and a staff whose turnover means a loss of institutional knowledge and new employee learning curve. In 2012, the city’s population was 79,000 and full-time positions were 520. The projected ratio in 2015 has the same number of workers but a population grown to 84,400.
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