A recent Daily Journal article reported that Redwood City fared better financially during the pandemic than expected. “With strong budget, Redwood City may offer community help,” so decided to maintain current spending levels and initiate new spending for pandemic relief to aid the community. In contrast, Belmont also completed its midyear budget review but despite having similarly rosy revenues, reached starkly different conclusions. Belmont’s review determined that it is facing “overlapping financial crises” from the pandemic and state takeaways of revenue, so staff proposed hunkering down by increasing some fees; freezing hiring; reducing spending on streets, parks, recreation and deferred pension liability; and shifting fire district funds to augment the police budget.
Interestingly, both cities fared better than expected, with strong revenue increases midyear for property taxes, sales taxes, fees and overall revenue. Redwood City actually increased revenue from some of the state “takeaway” programs cited by Belmont. Both had revenue declines in hotel taxes and reductions in revenue for former redevelopment areas due to a state court ruling.
Belmont’s financial report stated revenues for all funds are down 68%, but nearly all of that was for the $6 million spent on artificial turf for the Sports Complex — nothing to do with the pandemic. And the General Fund $0.7 million decline is largely due to the $668K annual payment for that turf.
Belmont has a robust General Fund balance exceeding $12 million despite the pandemic. Is Belmont using the pandemic as an opportunity to extort taxpayers, instead of helping the community in time of need, as is Redwood City?