The Coast News Group
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Cities Vista

Budget projections show revenues up, pension still a concern

VISTA — For the first time in at least 10 years, city staff will be presenting consecutive operating budgets to the City Council.

Assistant City Manager Aly Zimmermann said April 23 the city will present the budgets for Fiscal Years 2019-20 and 2020-21. She said staff will present a balanced budget in May for the council’s review before submitting the final draft in June for approval.

The city will continue to follow the traditional Fiscal Year calendar from July 1 to June 30 in the following year.

“This is allowing us to be more efficient with our human resources,” Zimmermann said of the two-year process. “This will also reinforce our commitment to long-term fiscal health by looking ahead a few years.”

Although the two-year process is in place, the City Council will be provided quarterly financial updates and a mid-cycle review 12 months after the initial adoption of the two-year budget.

Zimmermann said the process starts in the fall with staff reviewing and fine tuning budgets until the draft budget is presented in May.

“The city continues to benefit from a great economy,” Zimmermann said.

General Fund revenue projections are expected to increase by nearly $5 million, from $78.6 million in Fiscal Year 2018-19 to $82.2 million for the 2019-20 budget cycle. In 2020-21, the city estimates generating $83.5 million.

More than half of the city’s General Fund revenue comes from property and sales tax.

General Fund expenditures are projected at $75.2 million and $77.7 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively. Public safety is by far the largest source of expenditures, as it accounts for 66% for both years.

Vista contracts with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for police services, but funds its own fire department. Zimmermann said the city is replacing a brush engine for the fire department, two ambulance chassis and 13 cardiac monitors, which are planned capital expenditures.

The city will spend $49.8 million in 2019-20 and $51.7 million in 2020-21.

As for the total revenue projections, Zimmermann said the city can expect $82.3 million in 2019-20 and $83.5 in the 2020-21. Sales tax is projected at $18.6 million in 2019-20 and $19 million in 2020-21.

“Our highest revenue item is property tax,” Zimmermann said. “Those have increased a little bit due to movement in the housing market.”

The city’s responsibility for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is estimated at $8.5 million for FY 2019-20, she added. By 2023-24, the payment is expected to reach about $11.2 million.

“Those costs are still a burden on the city and something we have to manage,” Zimmermann added. “We’ve done a lot of things to manage our pension system.”

The city’s unemployment as of November 2018 was at 3.4%, which is 0.3% lower than the state average. As a result of the economic boom over the past several years, Vista’s emergency reserve account is at more than $21.7 million, or 30% of the city’s operating budget.