City budget review supports water projects; questions rise over other expenditures

City budget review supports water projects; questions rise over other expenditures
The Oceanside City Council listens to proposed General Fund and Capital Improvement budgets on April 29. Council will vote to approve the budgets in June. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — City Council listened to proposed General Fund and Capital Improvement budgets Wednesday and seemed to be on board with most expenditures, especially capital improvements projects aimed to increase the local water supply.

Planned recycled water projects include a new pipeline to serve the city-owned Goat Hill Golf Course, and 22 soccer fields at El Corazon Park.

Jason Dafforn, interim water utilities director, said phase I of the project is “looking fairly good.”

Additional recycled water projects include a new water reservoir and pipeline to serve South Oceanside customers, and a new recycled water treatment facility at the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility.

Mayor Jim Wood supported development of local water sources, and urged city staff to strive to reach water independence.

“I’d like to have our own water supply and not count on anyone else,” Wood said.

The Capital Improvement budget also earmarks funds for drought response projects. Downtown 25,000 linear feet of old pipeline will be replaced. Phase I of pipeline replacement will cost $6 million.

Other projects aimed to alleviate drought impacts are exploring indirect potable reuse to recycle water, weighing the feasibility of seawater desalination, and pilot tests on spreading basins and injection wells to recharge the San Luis Rey groundwater basin.

Dafforn discussed next steps to begin pilot tests to recharge the groundwater basin. He said a test location on city property needs to be identified, and soil studies must be completed prior to starting pilot tests.

“We’re ready to engage in discussion with property management,” Dafforn said.

General Fund Budget items were not as wholeheartedly supported.

Oceanside heads into 2015-16 with a $1.7 million General Fund revenue surplus, after a rollover of last year’s expenditures.

The biggest city revenue jump is in transit occupancy tax that climbed 10 percent to $4.95 million. Property tax increased 4.27 percent to $52.3 million and sales tax bumped up 1.9 percent to $21.69 million.

Budget priorities that will continue to be funded include fire apparatus replacement, deferred building maintenance, opening Marshall Street Pool for the summer, and funding city fireworks at price tags that range from $500,000 to $25,000 respectively.

One-time expenditures questioned by the council included $523,330 to fund six SAFER Grant fire positions, and $50,000 for an agritourism study.

Councilman Jerry Kern questioned the SAFER Grant expense, which he said requires the city to keep on firefighting staff after the grant year.

“I have a hard time with the grant funded position,” Kern said. “We do this every year on our own dime.”

Funding assures payment of six firefighter positions while SAFER Grant funds are pending.

Oceanside Fire Chief Darryl Hebert said the effects of not moving forward with the one time cost will be three less firefighters on daily call, which will reduce responses by one apparatus.

Hebert explained the SAFER Grant is awarded to ensure cities have adequate emergency response staffing. He added city emergency calls have increased by 10 percent from last year.

Hebert said the grant does not cost the city a dime, and does not put the city on the hook.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said she supports funding SAFER Grant positions to ensure the city has a sufficient number of emergency responders.

Following the workshop Councilman Chuck Lowery said he opposed one time funding for an agritourism study. He said he supports city agriculture, but thinks farmers and business groups should fund agritourism efforts.

During the workshop Kern voiced his support for funding the agritourism study.

Council will vote on the proposed budgets June 3.

Prior to the council’s vote the Arts Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee and Utilities Commission will review the budgets and provide council with their recommendations.

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