The Santa Barbara City Council’s finance committee on Tuesday supported proposed fee increases and revenue estimates for the 2012-13 recommended budget, which will be considered when the full council makes budget decisions in early June.
Council members have spent the last month listening to department presentations, and will start making decisions on the proposed $252.3 million operating budget and $19.8 million capital budget at a June 6 special meeting.
The city proposes increasing planning and development fees, harbor slip fees and utility fees for next year. Staff members propose a 3.5-percent increase to water usage and monthly service charges, a 2.69-percent increase to trash and recycling rates, and a 10-percent increase to wastewater rates, partly due to a costly legal settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper that requires extra pipe replacement.
The council will also consider changing the city’s reserve fund policies. Budgetary, or economic contingency, reserves are to be used during economic downturns, but not to the degree they have been: nearly depleted, finance director Bob Samario has said.
The council will discuss requirements for using the reserve funds, and may eliminate the $1 million capital reserve, which has never been used.
As of now, the city has goals of a disaster reserve fund representing 15 percent of the budget, and a contingency reserve representing 10 percent for the general fund.
Council members have approved using reserve funds to pay for ongoing expenses, but new policies clarify that reserves should only be used for unplanned events that have a major financial impact, such as natural disasters, not merely to fill a hole left by negotiated salary and benefit increases or higher retirement costs, Samario said Tuesday.