OCEANSIDE — Community feedback from six budget workshops was shared at the Strategic Planning Workshop on Jan. 23.
The Mercer Group facilitator Mike Letcher presented a compiled list of city priorities and budget must haves that residents brainstormed at workshops held in November and December.
A drawback to the information is that only 84 residents in a city of approximately 183,000 participated in the workshops.
Residents who participated said public safety, maintaining beaches and the harbor, adding library hours and services, and enhancing litter abatement and code enforcement were at the top of the list of necessary city services.
Using recycled water and building infrastructure to support sustainable growth were also top priorities.
Another priority was to promote economic vitality through downtown and beach area revitalization, building city and business partnerships, maintaining the farmers market, and pursuing agritourism.
Residents also agreed that to promote civic engagement the council must listen to the community.
“A lot of people call me to say they think City Council doesn’t listen,” Mayor Jim Wood said.
Councilman Jerry Kern said it’s more a matter of Council not agreeing with some residents.
“There are a lot of different voices out there,” he said. “We try to accommodate as many as possible.”
Budget priorities brainstormed by residents include controlling future city pensions and heath costs, halting spending on the proposed Rancho del Oro interchange and Melrose Drive extension, building a kitchen at El Corazon Senior Center and updating developer impact fees.
Council members requested that council aides work fewer hours rather than be eliminated as residents suggested.
“One of the things that galls people is paying for five full time council aides,” said Diane Nygaard. “It’s time to address that issue.”
Several council members said they need an aide in order to give timely responses to residents’ emails and phone calls.
“I don’t think the public knows the workload of a city this size,” Kern said.
Another request of some council members was to eliminate the current red light traffic cameras, which were not paying for themselves.
Council members also added traffic calming to the list of needed services. Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Gary Felien said residents repeatedly request traffic calming as a needed safety measure.
There was Council consensus to delete a few items from the priority list.
A July 4 fireworks display was taken off the list due to Council’s consensus that limited city funds would not allow a fireworks show and event security to be budgeted in this year.
Adding a skateboard park was also taken off the list since funding and construction of Alex Road Skatepark has already begun.
The revised list of budget priorities will be reviewed during budget discussions and considered for funding.
“All priorities have to come down to how much money is available,” Letcher said. “Right now we have to see what’s on the list.”
Council will meet in late February to discuss the 2013-14 city general fund budget of approximately $116 million.