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Workshop held to brainstorm city budget options

OCEANSIDE — City Council held a workshop Jan. 25 to brainstorm budget cuts and revenue generating options to revisit in June when it balances the annual budget and faces an anticipated $2.5 million shortfall.

A few ideas to cut costs are 2.5 percent citywide expenditure cuts, outsourcing the hiring of library staff, and appointing the city clerk instead of electing someone to the position.

To generate more revenue, the city will consider charging owners of noncompliant homes and businesses for follow up fire safety inspections and updating the rate of ambulance transportation fees.

“If we don’t want to cut services we have to come up with other ways to bring in more revenue,” Mayor Jim Wood said.

Increasing the city sales tax and transit occupancy tax was discussed, but not unanimously favored.

“To raise taxes to pay for more salaries and benefits and environmental overkill — I don’t see that as something too tempting for me,” Councilman Jack Feller said.

Budget priorities were also discussed.

“The priority we have is to budget 63 percent to public safety,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “Do we want to maintain that percent?”

“If you can’t provide safety for citizens you’re failing your job,” Joan Brubaker, Oceanside resident, said. “Public safety is the biggest overhead in any city if it’s run right.”

Most agreed that the financial outlook is flat at best. Current revenues are expected to remain the same and operation costs will continue to increase yearly.

Kern asked that a long-range budget solution be implemented instead of yearly budget reviews and adjustments.

“Last year we made budget cuts by 5 percent across the board,” he said. “I don’t think that’s working for us. We have zero left in the General Fund balance.”

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said she is satisfied with past budget decisions.

“We spent that money wisely on public safety and things to move the city along,” she said.

City Manager Peter Weiss said he would present City Council with several budget-trimming options in June.

Proposed 2.5 percent expenditure cuts will be looked at in individual department amounts to allow budget flexibility.

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