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Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad puts $9.1M away in contingency fund

CARLSBAD — The city is flush with cash stemming from a $16.3 million surplus from its Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget.

During its Oct. 22 meeting, the City Council discussed putting $9.1 million of the surplus into the city’s economic contingency fund, essentially a rainy day account.

Laura Rocha, the city’s deputy city manager, answering a question from Councilman Keith Blackburn, said the funds, if not used, can be re-issued back to the General Fund at the council’s discretion.

However, Roxanne Muhlmeister, the city’s finance manager, requested a portion of the remaining $9.1 million be set aside so staff could establish an enterprise resource planning system to upgrade the city’s separate software programs into one cohesive system.

Rocha said the goal is to start appropriating the funds now as implementation of any ERP is between one and two years away. The city currently has a request for proposals out to perspective bidders.

“It is going to be significant upgrades, for the potential of an ERP system,” Rocha said. “We have a number of systems currently in need of an upgrade.”

Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said she preferred to see staff’s presentation and report on the potential ERP before committing the surplus funds to the ERP.

Mayor Matt Hall said he was uncomfortable with how the funds could be earmarked for the ERP, noting the council still has its long-term goals to achieve and discuss, among other issues.

Blackburn said he had no issue with staff’s request to put funds in a separate account, seeing as the decision on how to release or spend the money is up to the council regardless.

“It’s just General Fund money parked elsewhere,” he added. “It doesn’t matter where its parked, it’s still the same.”

The surplus funds may be spent on new or unanticipated needs as long as it is a one-time expenditure, Rocha said.

City staff also presented a robust list of requests for City Manager Scott Chadwick to review. Chadwick may approve expenditures under $100,000, while the council must approve any item more than $100,000, according to the city’s new policy.

As a result, Chadwick approved $2,861,988 in General Fund carryforward requests. Those approvals, among others, left the council with more than $9.1 million in surplus funds, which it put into the reserve account.

The council had previously approved $2,099,000 for purchases for fleet replacements, but those three vehicles had not been purchased by the end of the fiscal year. In addition, the council is also expected to approve an additional $4.3 million in expenditures for items more than $100,000 including $1.7 million for a memorandum of understanding with the Police Officer’s Association addressing salary and benefits.

Other big items expected to be approved include $335,000 for the Housing Element Update, $320,000 for HVAC repairs to the safety center, $250,000 for the Parks and Recreation Master Plan update and $225,000 for the Schulman Auditorium sound system replacement.

As for the city’s General Fund Reserve Balance, Muhlmeister said it is currently at $82.6 million, or 49%, which is well over the policy target of 40%.