Finally, spring is here — time to clean house and look to the future. For the city of Goleta, the budget is looming and we know that next year will be tough. But in the following fiscal year, 2012-2013, we will have a revenue bump of $2.3 million to $2.5 million as we reach Goleta’s 10th year since incorporation and the return of hotel tax revenues and 20 percent of sales tax from Santa Barbara County.

In preparation for the new budget, the City Council has been reviewing priorities in our strategic plan, evaluating what programs we want to continue, what to take off the list because it has been completed, and what, if any, new programs to introduce.

Thirteen goals were readily agreed to — among them sound fiscal and budgetary planning, a healthy business climate, keeping a highly qualified service-oriented staff, environmental and agricultural preservation, public safety and maintenance of city infrastructure.

A number of major objectives are under way and were taken as givens — the writing of the zoning code and local coastal program to bring to closure the many years of work on the city’s general plan. Eight major capital improvement projects — including the San Jose Creek Flood Control Improvement Project, the Cathedral Oaks interchange, the Ekwill/Fowler extension in Old Town and the Hollister Avenue redesign — also are in various stages of planning and moving forward. The future of some of these projects will depend on continuation of redevelopment agency funding, still under discussion in Sacramento.

Even with the 2012 revenue bump, we will be facing significant challenges to meet increasing costs, particularly in our contract with the Sheriff’s Department over the next two years. In addition, library budget cutbacks have left insufficient funds to maintain services at the current level. The council was unanimous in its support of prioritizing the investigation of new revenue enhancements, both for general services and for the library.

Participation in the county’s gang-enforcement program ranked high on the list, even before the recent fight at Goleta Beach. Increasing staff effectiveness and services to the public through technology upgrades, including a project and permit document tracking system to facilitate projects movement through the permitting process were also seen as priorities.

Around the city, many signs still cite county municipal codes. After almost 10 years since incorporation, it was agreed it was time for these signs to be brought up to date.

Other high-priority items included establishing an inspection for code compliance on the sale of a property, encouragement of incubator business opportunities, fire hazard management in the city’s open space, traffic circulation in Old Town and researching the possibility of a community garden.

These are just some of the highlights from a much longer list. The council will soon be reviewing these priorities in more detail and, most important, assigning costs and a time line to each.

In the meantime, we are reminded that we do not operate in a vacuum, unrelated to what happens around us. Water is once again looming as an issue, with the Goleta Water District looking to right its budgetary ship with an increase in customer rates and new hook-up charges. The proposed increase is significant, reflecting the many years when no adjustments were made. The new water connection rates in particular could affect new development in the city as the financial impact on new projects is considerable.

On the other hand, customers will see a double-digit decrease in garbage rates this summer when the city’s new franchise agreement with MarBorg Industries goes into effect. The council decided in March 2010 to solely negotiate with MarBorg. After a year’s worth of work by staff and MarBorg, the council received and approved an agreement in which MarBorg will be the sole provider for the entire city as of July 1. For those of us who have been well served by Allied Waste Services over the years, it is good to know that MarBorg is committed to hire qualified Allied employees as much as possible and allow them to retain their seniority in the new company. Change is always difficult but we expect a smooth transition.

As always, the city of Goleta is interested in hearing from our residents and businesses. Please contact the city or me with any questions you may have about our strategic planning process or about the new trash contract.

Margaret Connell is serving her second term as mayor of Goleta.