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More revenue augments city budget

Temporary increase in taxes, parking fees and contributions to pensions means a bit more funds for some projects.

February 14, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

A bump in city revenue allowed the City Council on Tuesday to put some money into desired unfunded or underfunded projects and to stash some cash in case federal reimbursement for flood damage repairs is not forthcoming.

Increases in property, bed and sales taxes and parking fees, higher employee contributions toward pensions and reductions in department spending resulted in about $3.2 million more spendable revenue than expected when the 2012-13 budget was approved. However, City Manager John Pietig warned the council not to expect increases to continue at the same rate.

"We had a good bump and that's great, but I think it is one we cannot count on in the next two or three years," Pietig cautioned. "And the city is facing some challenges such as increased health care and retirement costs and the capital equipment requests are not completely funded."

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The council voted to set aside about one-third of the money as a contingency fund in the event that the city loses its second appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for projects related to 2010 flooding. If the appeal is successful, which Pietig said will be difficult, the funds will be added to the $800,000 earmarked for the countywide safety communication system, bringing the fund up to almost half of the city's share.

Other Pietig recommendations and justifications approved by the council:

•$400,000 to bulk up the Insurance Fund. Higher-than-expected claims related to the 2010 storm have exceeded the amount allocated to liability insurance.

•$80,000 for the zoning department to contract for services or hire a full-time assistant planner. Increased Community Development Department fees over the next two years should offset the costs.

•$20,000 for an arborist to survey and evaluate city-owned trees in Bluebird Canyon and prepare a replacement and maintenance program.

•$11,200 to increase the Marine Protection Officer hours to 24 hours a week. Hours were reduced to 20 per week several years ago. The increased hours will allow for two patrols a week and to complete report writing, court duty and scheduling school groups.

•$15,000 to promote improved customer service and training.

•$72,000 to monitor compliance with the State Water Board exemption that allows storm water and urban runoff into the Heisler Park area of special biological significance.

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