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City of Santa Barbara Expecting Surpluses for Next Two Budget Years

The City of Santa Barbara is expected to post surpluses for the next two fiscal years and officials plan to allocate more to capital funding than they have in the past decade, Finance Director Bob Samario said Tuesday.

The City Council will be hearing presentations on every city department for the 2014 budget starting at a May 1 special workshop and ultimately will adopt a budget by the end of June.

Samario and his staff recommend an operating budget of $268 million, which includes $40 million in capital spending and anticipates modest growth in local tax revenues. A new policy — prompted by the $200 million to $400 million in unfunded infrastructure needs — mandates that half of any year-end surpluses be added to the capital program as well.

Looking back on the past five years, the city “made it through in pretty good financial condition,” Samario said, though he cautioned council members that there are still huge expenses in the future.

The California Public Employees Retirement System lost so much in investments that it plans to raise its rates by 50 percent over a five-year period starting in 2016, Samario said — a move that could “decimate” some cities.

The City of Santa Barbara already has unfunded pension costs of about $267 million and expects its pension costs to increase significantly over the next five years just from existing employees retiring.

The largest portion of the budget is for general fund departments such as public safety, administration, public works and parks and recreation, which are funded primarily by tax revenues. Enterprise funds are almost completely self-sustaining off of fees, though the Golf Fund was hit hardest by the recession, Samario noted. It’s expected to improve with some help from the closure of Goleta’s Ocean Meadows course and higher green fees, according to the budget documents.

Cruise ship visits have been a boon to the waterfront department and community at large, with $300,000 per year in landing fees and general benefits from having thousands of visitors patronize local shops and restaurants.

There are several studies planned to find “efficiencies” in the coming years as well.

Even though the parking citation program — for enforcing 75-minute zones and street sweeping restrictions — brings in $4.2 million every year, the city says the computerized system is “cumbersome” and “antiquated.” Staff propose a $25,000 study to analyze the enforcement-to-collection process to find out if there’s a more cost-efficient way of doing business.

More than $500,000 of these funds were allegedly embezzled by former police business office manager Karen Flores, who assumed responsibility for the money after her supervisor’s position was eliminated in 2004 to save money. The City Council approved bringing back the position a year ago.

The parking violation revenues are divided among the county court system, the city streets sweeping fund and police operations, according to the budget document.

The city also wants to fund a $40,000 study that examines possible cost-cutting measures in providing aircraft, rescue and firefighting services at the Santa Barbara Airport — which cost about $1.8 million for the current year — and update the zoning ordinance to clarify “conflicting and confusing policies.”

The three-year process to update the ordinance would cost $597,000 among staff, city attorney and consultant work costs.

Click here to read the proposed two-year financial plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Scroll down for the scheduled meetings about the budget for the three-member Finance Committee.

The schedule for City Council budget workshops, to be held in the Council Chambers at 735 Anacapa St., is as follows:

» Wednesday, May 1 from 3 to 6 p.m. to discuss department budgets for finance, community promotions, administrative services, the city attorney’s office, the city administrator’s office and the mayor and City Council

» Thursday, May 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. to discuss department budgets for community development, the Redevelopment Agency successor agency and the library

» Monday, May 6 from 2 to 5 p.m. to discuss the department budget for public works

» Monday, May 13 from 2 to 5 p.m. to discuss the department budgets for the airport, waterfront and solid waste fund

» Wednesday, May 15 from 9:30 a.m. to noon to discuss department budgets for parks and recreation, the creek fund and the golf fund

» Monday, May 20 from 2 to 5 p.m. to discuss department budgets for fire and police

» Wednesday, May 22 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to discuss any other presentations if the time is needed

» Monday, June 3 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to begin council budget deliberations and get recommendations from the Finance Committee

» Wednesday, June 5 from 3 to 6 p.m. to continue deliberations, if needed

» Thursday, June 6 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to finish deliberations and give final budget direction to staff

» Tuesday, June 11 at the 2 p.m. regular City Council meeting to discuss the Prop. 218 hearing on proposed rate increases to water, wastewater and solid waste

» Tuesday, June 18 at the 2 p.m. regular City Council meeting to adopt the budget

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  Santa Barbara Finance Committee schedule for budget workshops 2013 by Giana Magnoli

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