OCEANSIDE — “It’s raining,” is how Mayor Jim Wood described the forecast for next year’s city budget. The gap between revenues and budget for Oceanside’s upcoming fiscal year sits at $4.2 million.
“If left uncorrected, it (the gap) will continue to grow,” City Manger Peter Weiss said.
To remedy next year’s budget woes, council voted to increase fees by $600,000, cut nonprofit funding by $99,100, and reduce city department budgets by $4 million, at the Budget Workshop on March 25.
“We’re seeing a significant reduction in city revenues,” Weiss said. Even with the approved fee increases and cuts the long-term budget problem is not solved. It addresses the next fiscal year and reduces the gap, Weiss said.
In a 5-0 vote, council OK’d a $250,000 increase in ambulance billing, $150,000 in parks and recreation fees and $200,000 in fire inspection fees.
“Fee increases are based on possible allowable services,” Weiss said. “Parks and recreation services were last updated a decade ago.”
The fee increases will be passed on to people using the services.
The decision to raise harbor slip rental fees by $100,000 was postponed for further discussion after opposition from boat owners, who said the proposed slip rental fees increases are “preposterous,” provide no additional benefits to boat owners, and have been raised too often.
“A 47 percent increase is just too much too fast,” boat owner David Stong said.
Nonprofit funding was cut 22 percent for the Chamber of Commerce, 30 percent for the Boys & Girls Club and 10 percent for KOCT Community Television, in a 4-1 vote, in which Wood voted against.
Community groups and residents spoke up to help reduce KOCT funding cuts from the initially proposed 19 percent cut to a 10 percent cut.
Speakers stressed the strong partnership the TV station has with the city and community, and student training the station provides.
“KOCT is an important part of the Oceanside community,” Kathy Christy of the League of Women Voters said. “They partner with us to present the pros and cons in propositions. Oceanside has the most election coverage of any city.”
“KOCT has such a unique capability we don’t find anywhere else,” Dick Bartlett, Freedom Calls Foundation volunteer, said. Bartlett explained how KOCT provides military families a teleconference site to speak to deployed Marines. “We served over 1,600 military families through KOCT,” Bartlett said.
City departments’ budgets were cut by $4 million, in a 3-2 vote. Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted against.
The decision cut department budgets by 5 to 10 percent, and axed 32 city jobs.
Budget reductions were initially submitted by each department and final budget cuts were decided by the city manager. “The target is for specific dollar amounts,” Weiss said. “We chose ongoing meaningful reductions for the departments.”
Oceanside still maintains a healthy city reserve that it has not yet dipped into. Council members have varied opinions as to whether city reserves should be spent to ease budget constraints.
“I think we should at least maintain our level of service,” Sanchez said. “We should dip into our reserves and do it now.”
“We should not live off our reserves or savings,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “This as the easy year, next year will be the tough one.”
A second budget workshop will be held in May, and the final city budget will be adopted June.