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Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad starts working on FY 2020-21 budget

CARLSBAD — The city has begun creating its Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget, although the annual City Council goal setting was postponed after the resignation of former City Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton in October, according to Deputy City Manager Laura Rocha.

Rocha and Roxanne Muhlmeister, the city’s finance manager, now take on an effort to wrangle a budget of $296.9 million, which is expected to grow slightly for the next fiscal year, Rocha said. The city finished its public outreach on Feb. 14 and the staff has identified the seven top priorities voiced by residents for next year.

Staff then asked the City Council to select the top three.

“What we heard council say is the three focus areas we’d like to have larger initiatives around are growth management, traffic and homelessness,” Rocha said. “It gave staff a way to develop their initiatives and prioritize their initiatives.”

Last year the City Council approved a change to start the public outreach and discussion in the fall. However, with Hamilton’s resignation and the council voting not to conduct its goal-setting until after the March 3 special election, the goal setting process was pushed back, Rocha said. She and Muhlmeister, though, are confident the city will start the new process this fall.

The two updated the council during its Jan. 21 meeting and the initial priorities totaled seven. Those included the aforementioned three plus parks and open space, public safety, sustainability and economic development, Rocha said. From there, the council whittled those priorities to three; although Rocha said the other four are still important avenues for the continuous investment.

“This was our check-in with them to see how we should be prioritizing some of our programs next year,” Muhlmeister said of the Jan. 21 presentation.

City departments, meanwhile, are currently preparing preliminary budgets, Rocha said, which will be turned over to senior staff in the coming weeks. Last year’s $296.9 million budget was a 7.5% increase plus the hiring of 42 new staff members.

Last year’s operating revenues were about $291.8 million, while the General Fund operating budget was $166.8 million, with estimated revenues of $170.5 million.

Rocha said she doesn’t expect nearly as many hiring requests for 2020-21, but said some departments may request a couple of new positions.

“I believe there will be a lot fewer position approvals,” she said. “I think obviously our budget will go up. Costs go up, there are new state mandates and we always keep an eye on the pension. Revenues at this point look steady. There has been steady growth in both our sales tax and hotel tax.”

As for the timeline, the council will conduct a workshop on April 14 followed by the preliminary budget on May 19 and adoption on June 23. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Note: This story was edited to clarify the budget process began on time, while the City Council goal setting process was postponed due to the vacancy on the council.