CARLSBAD — With an improving economy and rising revenues, Carlsbad city staff was able to propose a balanced operating budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year to City Council at its May 28 meeting.
The budget incorporated investments in two new ambulances for the Fire Department, the city’s traffic signal program, and an updated city website.
“Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure buys quality of life for cities,” said Councilmember Keith Blackburn after hearing staff’s presentation.
City Administrative Services Director Chuck McBride stated during his presentation that the economic climate in Carlsbad has improved along with the national economy, allowing for increased revenue sources that are close to pre-recession levels.
“We’ve been fortunate to see our revenue sources increase in the coming fiscal year,” he said.
This coming year’s total proposed citywide budget adds up to $255 million, most of which is made up of the city’s operating budget and the remainder by the capital improvement program.
The proposed operating budget covers city services and adds up to about $211.2 million.
The $43.8 million proposed capital improvement program funds major construction projects within Carlsbad.
The city’s general fund, which finances most of the city’s day-to-day services including police and fire, libraries, parks, and streets, makes up the greatest part of the operating budget.
Other portions of the budget are made up of enterprise funds and internal service funds.
The largest portion of the city’s proposed general fund is devoted to public safety costs, followed by community services and public works.
The proposed operating budget also allots for investments in the opening and operation of Alga Norte Community Park, the purchase of two new ambulances for the Fire Department, continued development of the city’s traffic signal program, new police technology, and new library technology.
The majority of the city’s revenues come from sales, property and hotel taxes and support the general fund.
With home prices, taxable sales and tourism all increasing within the area, Carlsbad’s general fund revenues are projected to return to almost pre-recession levels at $121 million in the coming fiscal year, according to McBride.
He said that in particular, hotel taxes “have hit the highest it’s ever been in Carlsbad,” thanks to the new Legoland Hotel and smaller hotels within the city.
Sales taxes are also expected to increase due to the opening of new shopping centers including Palomar Commons.
The 2013-14 proposed operating budget is $937,000 greater than the current year’s adopted budget, a less than half-a-percent increase.
According to City Finance Manager Helga Stover, this increase is made up of higher general fund and enterprise fund costs. To offset these increases, the city has worked to decrease internal costs by eliminating full time positions and streamline operations.
This year, the city eliminated 12 vacant positions from Community and Economic Development, the city manager’s office, Parks and Recreation, Utilities, Records, and Transportation, said Stover. Carlsbad also added five full-time positions and one part-time position this year, reducing city staff on the whole.
Though the approaching fiscal year’s budget is balanced, McBride said that moving forward in future years, the city faces challenges planning for future cost increases, such as the pension cost increase in 2015-16 fiscal year.
He said the city would also have to find funding sources for major projects that are coming up, including the Carlsbad Boulevard realignment project.