Imperial Beach city officials presented a grim financial outlook to the City Council on April 13, involving a budget impacted by factors such as state budget cuts, labor negotiations, tax revenue, and increased public safety costs, according to City Manager Gary Brown and Mayor Jim Janney.
In order to bring financial stability to Imperial Beach over the next five-year period, the two public servants said that cuts are necessary.
“If the state does not pass their budget until late in the year, then we might be returning [before the council] at an additional $150,000 to $200,000 in the hole, and we’ll have to make more adjustments, so we can certainly be coming back with the need to cut more,” Janney said.
The mayor and Brown were both equally concerned by the state’s pending legislation that may eliminate redevelopment agencies, which would not only cut the primary funding source for the city’s revitalization projects, but also create a $300,000 ongoing gap in the budget.
To prevent passing on the costs to Imperial Beach residents, who pay 53 cents daily per capita for city maintenance, animal control, code enforcement, recreation programs, senior programs, and many other offerings, the mayor supports cutting the services.
Eliminating the city’s recreation program would save $231,000 of the approximately $1.2 million in additional budget savings proposed by Brown. The recreation program includes sports leagues, a teen room, a music program and special events throughout the year, which necessitates staffing, maintenance, utilities and facility supplies.
Mayor Janney suggested the council consider outsourcing recreation the way the city of Lemon Grove recently decided to do. One current outsourcing example in IB is that baseball teams are responsible for maintaining the fields, according to Janney.
Eliminating seven positions, including the groundskeeper position, could save the city over $550,000.
When asked who would maintain the city grounds, the mayor said, “No one. But because some maintenance will need to be done, there will be amendments. But perking things up with flower beds, that sort of stuff, needs to stop. Nobody likes it but we don’t have the money.”
Additionally, city employees—except lifeguards and those in the Fire Department and Sheriff's Department—would take a furlough every Friday, saving approximately $175,000 per fiscal year.
Reducing animal control has a potential savings of up to $230,000 depending on the number of days for which coverage is eliminated. “As it is, we don’t have someone on the weekends,” Janney said. “If a call comes in and it’s severe enough, we call an animal control person. But if it’s not so bad it goes unattended.”
The operating budgets for the fiscal years of 2011-12 and 2012-13 total approximately $33.21 million and $33.75 million respectively, but the city’s general fund for the same fiscal years totals only $16.96 million and $17.3 million. With a need to reduce the gap by far more than the $1.2 million in proposed saving plans, the budget negotiations are far from over.
Bringing in Revenue
Council members Lorie Bragg, Edward J. Spriggs and Jim King all felt that ways to bring in revenue and not just cut spending should be part of the discussion.
“We should put all the options on the table because on the state and federal level we have no idea where the economy is going in the next 3 to 5 years [and in past years] we have always been underfunded,” Spriggs said.
Both Bragg and King felt that the city owns property that is extremely underused and would be a great source of revenue, such as the Marina Vista Center.
“The fruits of redevelopment take a few years to be seen,” King said, and added that the primary way out of the budget dilemma is the development of the ocean front.
Councilman Brian P. Bilbray said marketing of the tourism industry is needed to eliminate the Imperial Beach stigma other San Diegans seem to have of “Eeew, I hear you can’t even swim in that water.”
The mayor instructed the council to get together over the next few weeks in subcommittees and to return with suggestions so that the Finance Department can make adjustments as necessary. As of the date of this publication, voting on the proposed budget is not on the City Council’s agenda for April or May.