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Carlsbad Budget Presented, Public Workshop Set for June 11

Carlsbad CA— According to a report presented to the City Council Tuesday, the city’s proposed $240.4 million operating budget focuses on maintaining and enhancing Carlsbad’s quality of life while investing in key initiatives to support the values most important to the community.

“We have been very strategic in recommending any new spending, offsetting new costs with increased efficiencies wherever possible,” said Helga Stover, the city’s budget manager. “The result is a balanced budget that will enable the city to continue to provide excellent service at the best value to our taxpayers.”

The operating budget includes day-to-day city expenses, such as public safety, parks and recreation, library and arts services, infrastructure maintenance and other services. The city’s proposed Capital Improvement Program budget, which covers major city construction projects, was presented to the City Council May 19. Both budgets will be presented for final adoption by the City Council June 23. The city operates on a fiscal year that starts July 1.

The city will hold a public budget workshop June 11, at 6 p.m., at the Faraday Administration Center, 1635 Faraday Ave. The workshop is an opportunity for community members to learn about the proposed budget, ask questions and provide comments, which will be provided to the City Council.

The preliminary operating budget for fiscal year 2015-16 totals $240.4 million, an increase of $13 million, or 5.7 percent, over this year’s adopted budget. Operating revenues for fiscal year 2015-16 are estimated at $244.9 million, which is about a $1 million, or 0.4 percent, increase over the current year’s projections.

Proposed increases to the city budget include a $175,000 increase to the library materials budget to address increasing demand, particularly for electronic materials, and bring the department back to pre-recession spending levels. Another proposed increase is the replacement of public safety communication equipment, at a cost of $590,000 for the Fire Department and $879,000 for the Police Department. The proposed budget also includes the purchase of a new fire truck at a cost of about $950,000.

The city is also proposing to improve customer service through a reconfiguration of the reception and front counter areas at the Faraday Administration Center and the addition of a receptionist. An additional code compliance officer is also included in the proposed budget.

The city is proposing to eliminate 11.75 full-time positions that are currently vacant and add 16.25 full-time positions, a net increase of 4.5 positions. The budget also includes 3.75 limited term positions.

“We are taking a look at our current and future needs and making sure we have the right staffing in place to provide services in the most efficient way possible,” said Stover. “In recent years, departments have reorganized, including looking at what services should provided by staff and which should be contracted out. This has enabled us to capture budget savings and allocate those resources where they are needed most.”

One area getting additional staff resources is the city’s Public Works Department. Two new engineer positions will help accelerate the pace of infrastructure improvements and major civic projects.

The Carlsbad economy has been improving with the addition of hotel, retail and commercial projects, as well as a strengthening regional.  Continued challenges include inflation, higher taxes and the cost of new state and federal regulations. The preliminary operating budget assumes that the city’s general fund revenue, money that can be spent on day-to-day services, will increase by approximately 2.8 percent in fiscal year 2015-16 compared to the previous year’s projected revenue. The recommended general fund operating budget is $135 million, with estimated revenues of $137.7 million.

The majority of the city’s general fund revenues come from taxes.  In the upcoming year, it is expected that property tax revenue will be approximately $56.6 million. This is an increase of 4 percent from the latest 2014-15 projections.

Sales tax revenues generally move in step with economic conditions and have improved markedly over the past two years, 9.5 percent from 2012 to 2014. The city’s sales tax base is heavily weighted in the transportation and retail sectors. New auto sales, which make up approximately one-quarter of city sales tax revenue, have exceeded pre-recession levels and hit an all-time high in the last quarter of 2014. City sales tax revenues are expected to increase by approximately 5.3 percent in fiscal year 2015-16, contributing $34.9 million to the general fund.

The fiscal year 2015-16 revenues for transient occupancy taxes, the taxes paid for hotel room stays, are estimated at $19.1 million, an increase of 6 percent compared to the fiscal year 2014-15 estimates. Revenue from this tax has increased by over 55 percent since fiscal year 2010-11, as new hotels have opened in recent years, such as the LEGOLAND Hotel and the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa, recently renamed Cape Rey Carlsbad.