The Carlsbad City Council Tuesday approved a $231.6 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year that will ensure the city’s continued financial health while focusing on projects that support an excellent quality of life in the city.
The spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 focuses on top community priorities, including bringing new jobs to the city, improving traffic flow and expanding parks. Watch a video about the city budget.
In addition to more than $1 million set aside in the budget for preservation and maintenance of open space and trails, the City Council designated $5 million to trails linkages and open space acquisition. To date, the city has successfully worked with nonprofit organizations and private land owners to meet its commitment to set aside 40 percent of the city as permanent open space. This approach has resulted in the city meeting its open space goals without taxpayers footing the bill. If an opportunity comes up for the city to directly purchase open space property from a willing seller at a fair price, the money set aside in the budget could be used for this purpose, if the City Council feels it is in the best interest of taxpayers.
The new budget also includes projects to improve efficiency and community connection through technology, including installing free public Wi-Fi at city parks and community centers.
The largest part of the operating budget is the general fund, which pays for most day-to-day city services, such as libraries, parks, streets, and police and fire services. The recommended general fund operating budget is $115.1 million, with estimated revenues of $116.1 million. This is a 1.3 percent increase in the estimated general fund revenues compared to the projected FY 2011-12 revenues, and a 3 percent increase in general fund budgeted expenditures compared to the FY 2011-12 adopted budget.
The city’s three largest sources of revenue in the general fund are property tax, sales tax and hotel room tax.
The largest source of revenue, property tax, tends to lag behind economic growth and remain relatively stable over time. In FY 2012-13, property taxes are expected to decrease slightly, providing approximately $47.8 million to the general fund, compared to $48.1 million in FY 2011-12.
Changes in sales tax revenue align more closely with changes in the overall condition of the economy and are expected to increase as the current economic recovery gains steam. Sales taxes are expected to total $28.8 million for FY 2012-13, an increase of 4.4 percent compared to the FY 2011-12 projections.
The third highest general fund revenue source is Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT, or hotel taxes), estimated at $13.5 million for FY 2012-13, an increase of 8 percent compared to FY 2011-12 estimates. Growth in the TOT base (existing hotels) is expected to increase by 3.5 percent in FY 2012-13, driven primarily by forecast increases in the average daily rate paid for rooms. The Hilton Oceanfront Resort & Spa, a new hotel, just opened and is expected to add additional TOT revenues. TOT revenues peaked in FY 2007-08 at $14.3 million and, during the economic downturn, fell to a low of $11.5 million in FY 2009-10.
The fiscal year 2012-13 budget eliminates the equivalent of 16 full time positions, bringing the total city workforce reduction since the beginning of the recession to 43 positions. Even with a smaller staff and other reductions in resources, the city has not made significant cuts to public services. City libraries and community centers remain open seven days a week and city offices are still open Monday through Friday.
The city’s proposed $28.9 million Capital Improvement Program budget includes major construction projects, including money for traffic improvements, road resurfacing and water, sewer and drainage improvements, as well as the construction of Alga Norte Community Park.