Mayor calls budget workshop a ‘level-headed meeting’

OCEANSIDE — Mayor Jim Wood described the May 23 budget workshop as a “level-headed meeting.” 

There was minimal City Council discussion, but Councilwoman Esther Sanchez did voice disapproval of some proposed improvement projects.

City staff gave a brief presentation on the final proposed 2012-2013 city budget that cuts more than $1 million from last year’s city operating costs, and brings total operating costs to just more than $335 million.

City Manager Peter Weiss said that proposed general funds costs of $116 million leave the city with a $68,000 surplus, but funds do not restore city reserves, costs of special elections or pay into long-term pension obligations.

“It’s operations only,” Weiss said.

The balanced budget includes capital improvements projects for beaches and harbor, water and sewer and throughout the city.

Funds are slated to replace a water main on Harbor Drive and replace electrical lines in the harbor.

The Harbor and Beaches Division will trim division costs by closing its office on Sundays, and outsourcing harbor administration and maintenance services.

City water rates are slated to increase by 7 percent in the coming year to cover anticipated pass-through charges from the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District. Sewer rates are also expected to be bumped up.

More information on water and sewer rate increases will be shared by Water Utilities Director Cari Dale in June, and finalized by City Council later in the year.

“The largest cost driver is the purchase of water,” Dale said. “We’re doing a fairly good job at towing the line on internal costs.”

Budget-wise, five out of the eight water projects in line to get funding will help increase the local water supply. These projects include major improvements to the desalination plant.

Ninety citywide capital improvement projects are slated for funding. On the list are sidewalk replacement, asphalt overlays and design of the Melrose Drive extension.

Sanchez said she would like to see more money go toward waterfront improvement projects including beach restroom upgrades.

She added that she would request a separate vote on final approval of $2 million for the Melrose Drive extension, and the OK to fund proposed traffic signal lights.