Council Approves 2014-15 Budget

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City Council unanimously approved the budget for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year last week.

The council adopted the budget during their June 10 meeting and will take effect July 1, according to an announcement released on June 13.

The budget “is balanced, adds to Newport Beach’s public safety services and invests $66.2 million in capital projects and improvements, including millions for roads, parks, and water quality improvements,” city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan explains in the statement.

Total expenditures will total $283.8 million, according to the press release. That figure includes capital carry-overs, but is net of internal charges, the statement explains. That’s down from last year’s total of $286.3 million (also net of internal charges).

“Highlights of the FY 15 budget include: A capital improvement plan that earmarks $66.2 million in FY 15 as the city continues to focus on infrastructure improvements and community-serving facilities. Nearly $27 million of these facility improvements will be funded through contributions from private developer agreements,” Finnigan wrote.

City Manager Dave Kiff gave a brief overview of the budget and went over the checklist on Tuesday.

Discretionary reserves (savings) projected to be at $89 million by June 30, 2015.

Saved up cash is being spent on big projects like Marina Park and Sunset Ridge, as well as information technology to help the city “a little faster and smarter,” he added.

The budget also addresses pension costs, he said, city employees are funding a record $7.4 million of the city’s pension costs through payroll deductions.

The overall the city staff size has gone down in recent years, Kiff pointed out. In 2009-10 there were 833 full-time employees, the upcoming year will have 727.

In an effort to improve public safety, another police officer will join the department to work on a targeted crime prevention team, Kiff said.

“We take a very conservative, but strategic, approach to reserves, or savings,” Kiff said in the prepared statement. “The city has a contingency reserve of 25 percent of its annual operations budget in case of an emergency, but we also set aside money each year to address costs such as, workers’ compensation, general liability, compensated absences, and equipment and facility replacement.”

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle asked about the city’s Signal Synchronization System and plans to optimize infrastructure, fine tuning it and making it more effective.

A lot has been invested into the program and are in the process of finishing, replied Public Works Director Dave Webb.

Only two speakers during public comment on Tuesday, city watchdog Jim Mosher and Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Orange County, Lisa Wolter

Wolter commented on the city’s special event budget.

There are several wine and food  events, she said, and a yacht race. But, her nonprofit’s Race for the Cure event doesn’t get the same support, she said.

Race for the Cure brings in thousands of people into the city, she argued, and it affects people in Newport Beach

The special event grant system is “indecipherable” and “lacks true community input,” Wolter said.

Newport Beach was a founding host for the race 23 years ago, she said. They had a wonderful 18 years, but the last few years she has felt a lack of participation and support from the council, she added.

The amount suggested does not even cover the permit fee, she said.

“We don’t feel entitled to any funding,” Wolter said. “We do want to be in a municipality that values and wants to be the host of our event.”

“I would like to withdraw our request for any support from your special events budget,” she continued, adding that they would pay the fees, making them the only Race for the Cure event in the U.S. to pay their host city for police, fire and traffic services.

The event will be Sept. 28.

“And then we’ll move on,” Wolter said.

Mosher expressed concern and confusion over a few items, including how the budget document reports that employees are paying into their calPERS pension and not the public. Even more confusing, he added, is why some salary adjustments are being increased to compensate for the higher contribution the employee has to make.

“If we’re giving the employee more money to pay the contribution that they’re supposed to pay, I don’t really see how that is the employee paying the contribution,” he said.

He also questioned what the $18 million in internal charges were and how they were not clearly explained to the public.

Council unanimously approved the budget without an further discussion. They had previously reviewed and discussed the proposed budget during public meetings on May 13 and 27.

“As the city approaches 109 years young, we remain committed to investing and re-investing in keeping our community prosperous,” said Mayor Rush Hill in the prepared statement. “That means, further improving its roads, traffic signals, water quality, and safety services, while adding to its parks, and keeping its public spaces well maintained. Our private property values remain high because of the community re-investment we can make with our current revenue structure and without raising taxes.”

“We have a pattern and practice of adopting balanced budgets here, even through the depths of the recession,” Kiff said in the announcement. “I very much appreciate the City Council and community’s support of our long-term budget approach, which has been to get smaller, smarter, and faster while still keeping the community safe and looking like Newport Beach should look.”

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