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Lack of data stalls decision on fees

OCEANSIDE — Lack of budget information rendered the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee unable to make a recommendation on whether to increase harbor slip rental fees on March 24.
Committee members expressed frustration that harbor budget information has been incorrect or incomplete at the last four ad hoc and committee meetings.
Committee chair John Mertz said committee members will write a detailed list of what information is needed from the city for the May 26 meeting so a decision on slip rental fees can be made.
Committee member Jim Jenkins said he wants to see two years of monthly budget sheets that account for how present harbor funds are spent and give insight into where cuts can be made before an increase is OK’d to fund capital improvements to the harbor.
“We can’t look at capital improvements yet,” Jenkins said.
Residents echoed commission members’ requests to “see the numbers” of harbor operating costs.
Some called the 20-year budget plan a 20-year spending plan. “We are not adverse to increases,” one boat owner said. “We’re also not dumb.”
Residents questioned why increased costs in harbor repairs and city workers salaries were not planned for in earlier budgets.
“My slip rent has increased 38 percent,” David Albert, Oceanside resident and boat owner said. “Stop looking at the slip renters to increase fees.”
The discussion on whether to increase slip rental fees began in 2009. The same year Frank Quan was appointed as harbor director to replace former harbor manager Ray Duncan.
Many are asking when the harbor budget went off track.
Jenkins said that Duncan reported the harbor was operating in the black at the end of his term as harbor manager in 2009. Then analysis of the harbor budget by city-hired consultants Keyser Marston Associates found that the harbor was $466,00 in the red in 2009.
According to Quan, the harbor has had an overall balanced budget for the last 20 years.
Quan said the 20-year harbor budget plan allows for gains and losses over the span of 20 years. While the harbor saw losses in some years there were reserves to cover them.
Quan added that future costs to maintain and repair the harbor will increase. “We have reserves, but will start seeing a deficit in 2013, 2014,” Quan said.
The proposed 20-year harbor budget plan calls for an increase in slip rental fees to help cover the costs of maintenance of an aging harbor and increases in city employee salaries.
Options of how to implement an increase in fees include a tiered increase, an across-the-board increase and freezing rates for present slip renters while having a tiered increase for new slip renters.
The dollar amounts of fees and budget totals were not available for the most favored option of freezing rates for present slip renters while having a tiered increase for new slip renters.
Quan said the ad hoc committee recommended this latest option two to three weeks ago and city consultants did not have time to run the numbers.