City looks to save in revised budget

ENCINITAS — City Council reviewed a revised, trimmed-down budget during a special public workshop April 29. Although the council did not vote on the two-year spending plan, members generally embraced the proposal.
“We are retaining our essential services,” Mayor Maggie Houlihan said. “That’s what I like about this budget.” A final vote is scheduled for May 20.
The current budget calls for $46.6 million in general fund spending in the coming fiscal year 2009-2010 beginning July 1. According to the staff report, the estimate contains $1.38 million less in expenditures than the previously approved budget for the same fiscal year.
Councilman Jerome Stocks said the budget showed constraint and that the city had even further reduced an already lean budget that the council approved last year. The budget was revised in February when the impact of a national economic downturn became relevant to the city’s coffers.
Projected revenue is down $1.8 million from $53.5 million that the city budgeted last year. Much of the decline is due to lagging sales tax revenue and a slowdown in new building.
The council was generally receptive to the new plan given by City Manager Phil Cotton and finance department staff. However, some groups were resistant to the reduction in spending. Doug Long, president of the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, said he opposes the city’s plan to cut its contribution to the organization by 10 percent.
While the council acknowledged the good work that the group does for the city, Deputy Mayor Dan Dalager said the $4,000 cut was necessary. He said the group would have to “share the pain” but volunteered to help out at fundraisers.
“The facts of life is that revenues aren’t where we want them to be, but we have a balanced budget,” Cotton said. He said that proposed increased building fees were built into the proposed budget. “The increase in fees was not made to balance the budget,” he assured the council.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth questioned the recreation fees. Resident youth groups use 95 percent of athletic fields in the city and are not charged a fee according to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine. Barth asked that the issue of fees be agendized.

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