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Carlsbad keeps within budget

CARLSBAD — Midway through the fiscal year, the city of Carlsbad reported that it has kept spending in line with revenues, in spite of continued decreases in the city’s main sources of income.
City staff presented the latest numbers to the City Council at a recent meeting.
“The bad news is the economy continues to be very weak and will likely continue this way for some time,” city Finance Director Lisa Irvine said. “The good news is we are keeping our head above water by being extremely careful with our spending and continuing to find ways to do more with less.”
The city prepares monthly economic reports for staff and the public showing exactly where the city is in terms of revenues. Every three months, Irvine presents an in-depth economic update and report on the city budget to City Council at a public meeting that also plays on the city’s Time Warner cable channel 24/126 and the city Web site,
For the first six months of the fiscal year, which started July 1, 2009, the city of Carlsbad’s General Fund revenues are tracking with the FY 2009-10 budget estimates; although, revenues are projected to be down by nearly $7 million, or 5.6 percent, when compared to the revenues for FY 2008-09.
— Property taxes are projected to be $49 million or down 2.8 percent from the prior year.
— Sales taxes are projected to be $22.4 million or down 9.4 percent from the prior year.
— The city’s hotel room taxes estimated to end the year at $11.6 million or down 8.9 percent from FY 2008-09.
— Other revenue, including revenue from development, is projected to be higher than the previous year.
Not knowing how bad the recession might get, the city took a very conservative approach to creating the fiscal year 2010 budget. As a result, even though numbers are down across the board, the city has been able to maintain a balanced budget.
“One of our goals in managing the city budget has been to plan ahead so we can be thoughtful about the cuts that are needed,” Irvine said. “Although no one knew it would get as bad as it is, we saw signs of a weakening economy as early as 2007 and began scaling back spending accordingly.”
This week’s report included a presentation by Marney Cox, chief economist for the San Diego Association of Governments.
“Almost any way you look at this recession, it’s worse than previous recessions,” Cox said. “There is no consensus today on what the recovery will look like.”
To date, the city has shaved about $10 million off its budget and downsized the city workforce by 25 positions. Service cuts have focused on areas with the least direct effect on the public, with core services affecting health and safety remaining a top priority. Residents might notice longer wait times for some city service requests and less frequent maintenance at city parks. Some special events have been eliminated from the budget this year, and all departments have had to reduce their day-to-day operating expenses.
The city is proceeding cautiously with any decisions that will require an ongoing financial commitment and instead focusing on the core services most important to residents. City libraries and community centers continue to be open seven days a week and, along with city recreation programs and senior services, are experiencing record demand. The city also continues to invest in maintaining streets, bridges, water and sewer pipes, and other infrastructure.