Op-Ed: Promises Made, Promises Kept

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Op/Ed by Councilmembers Diane Dixon and Will O’Neill

Newport Beach enjoys extraordinary blessings, including weather, location, fiscal prosperity and community stewards, to name just a handful. 

Our City Council Members and dedicated citizen members have worked hard through public outreach and committee work to ensure that our budget meets community expectations. 

Newport Beach remains fiscally strong in the short-term, but has looming concerns in the long-term. At the positive end, we project another balanced budget, steady revenue sources, consistent surpluses, infrastructure maintenance on schedule and healthy reserves. 

Long-term, though, we remain concerned about pension liability, large infrastructure projects like sea wall rehabilitation, a structural deficit in our wastewater enterprise fund, and ongoing civic center debt payments.

Our current budget balances the community’s short-term goals with these long-term concerns.  For example, we devote more than half of our general fund spending to our number one priority: public safety. Nearly $109 million out of our General Fund’s projected $202 million expenditures will go toward police, fire and lifeguards. We devote substantial resources from diverse external funds toward our Capital Improvement Program, including allocations to rebuild the fire stations in Lido Village and in Corona del Mar (yes, including the library too). 

Seniors who frequent OASIS will continue to enjoy the extraordinary services and programs provided by top-class staff. Families who use our community centers and parks can expect clean facilities, safe parks and innovative programming. And everyone in between can drive our streets free of potholes with increasingly drought-friendly yet attractive median landscaping.

We have also followed promises made by setting aside more money toward our Harbor and pension liability than ever before. Last year’s budget surplus has afforded an additional $6 million be spent toward deferred harbor infrastructure, including sea walls. 

We will also spend an additional $9.1 million to pay down the City’s unfunded pension liability faster. This approach accelerates the CalPERS discount rate reduction and should save $15 million over 20 years. Our employees remain committed to helping pay their share of pension liability by contributing $10 million this year toward their “normal” cost.

As more money is required toward pension liabilities, less money is available for important expenditures in our community. Infrastructure spending, for example, will be increasingly challenged as increasing pension liability and decreasing developer fee funds squeeze our ability to spend at expected levels. 

The City Council and our City’s Finance Committee remain vigilant to find the proper fiscal balance.

We publicly thank our citizen Finance Committee members for their dozens and dozens of hours crafting fiscal policy and offering unvarnished and well-informed opinions about future liabilities such as pension and civic center debt. These members include Larry Tucker, Patti Gorczyca, Joe Stapleton, and Bill Collopy. We also thank John Warner for his prior work.

July 1, 2017 starts our new fiscal year and the planning for the next budget.  We invite increased public participation.  We also look forward to continuing to serve you and keeping our promises.

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