Oceanside’s budget surplus discussed

OCEANSIDE — This is the first budget year since 2008-2009 that City Council was not pressed with making further budget cuts. The 2013-2014 budget will have a $17,000 surplus.Big strides were made over the past four years in closing budget gaps by steep cuts in spending and personnel, city employees agreeing to pay their full retirement costs, and adoption of a two-tier retirement rate for new employees.

“The deficit has been significantly reduced,” City Manager Peter Weiss said. “Additional cost saving measures will not be necessary.”

This left City Council to discuss several items on the general fund and capital improvement projects short lists at the Budget Workshop Feb. 20.

Some general fund items approved for funding are restoring library hours, a one-time replacement of pier decking, enhanced street maintenance, an updated development impact fees study for El Corazon, and hiring two part time code enforcement officers.

Also supported by the council majority is a one-time citizens’ survey slated to be conducted in fall. Councilman Jerry Kern, Gary Feline and Jack Feller said they saw value in the study.

“There are people claiming to speak for the majority on both sides of every issue,” Felien said. “This will shed light when we’re trying to grope around and have an idea what citizens want.”

Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said the survey is unnecessary after a series of public workshops already collected citizens’ input.

The traffic-calming program will probably not be funded. Sanchez and Felien voice support for traffic calming, but held different opinions on whether residents should be given the authority to privately fund it in their neighborhood.

The option to provide residents with the names of consulting firms was proposed at $20,000.

The option to hire a full time city employee to investigate citywide traffic calming issues was proposed at $115,000.

Sanchez suggested hiring a part time city employee and allowing residents the option to fund traffic calming in their neighborhood.

Felien said allowing residents to fund traffic calming would limit it to high-income neighborhoods.

“High-income neighborhoods would have an option not available to low-income neighborhoods,” Felien said.

Weiss said he would follow up with council for direction.

Eliminating red light cameras was nixed due to the $48,000 penalty fee to terminate the contracted program two years early. Council members agreed it was more cost effective to wait out the two years.

Hiring a city public information officer for $35,000 was also nixed. Instead funds will be used to start up Wi-Fi access at four community centers. Start up fees runs about $6,000 per location.

Funding safety ladders for the harbor was also approved. The retractable ladders will allow people who fall into the water a way to pull themselves up onto the dock.

“Stepladders for the harbor are a public safety issue,” Wood said. “The amount of money is well worth it.”

City Council OK’d most of the items on the capital improvement projects short list without much discussion.

It was decided Coast Highway bicycle-friendly single-lane restripping would start in South Oceanside.

The Melrose Drive Extension was funded $2 million. Wood and Sanchez opposed the funding and said the road would not receive necessary OKs to be built.

Upgrading beach restrooms was discussed, but funding was not earmarked to do the upgrades.

City Council will vote on the final city budget before June.

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