The Carlsbad City Council will consider final adoption of the annual budget at its meeting June 18, starting at 4 p.m. The meeting will include a discussion of proposed updates to city financial policies, including pension funding, surplus management, and reserves, with the goal of further strengthening the city’s long-term financial position.
Since presenting the preliminary budget May 21, city staff has provided answers to an initial set of questions June 3, 2019, plus a follow up set of questions on June 14, 2019.
The city remains in excellent financial health with a projected budget surplus, according to the city’s finance manager, who led a team of staff in presenting a draft budget to the City Council at its May 21 meeting. The Fiscal Year 2019-20 Preliminary Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program details all the projected revenue and recommended spending for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The May 21 meeting was an opportunity for the public and the City Council to go over the draft budget prepared by city staff. In all, the general fund operating budget, which covers the city’s day to day services like police, fire, parks and libraries, is proposed to increase 7 percent, with a projected surplus of $3.7 million. By comparison, the 2018-19 general fund operating budget increased 6.9 percent over the previous year.
Community members can read the draft budget on the city’s website or see a printed version at City Clerk’s Office. A video of Tuesday’s meeting is also available on the city’s website.
According to Finance Manager Roxanne Muhlmeister, city staff always propose a general fund operating budget that is balanced with some amount left over to provide a “comfortable cushion” against any unforeseen changes that come up during the year.
Muhlmeister likens the general fund to a person’s checking account. Other city funds are more akin to a college savings account, where the money doesn’t necessarily get spent the same year it comes in.
Community Budget Priorities
The city asked for input on spending priorities earlier in the budget process this year and used a new online public input tool in addition to the traditional public workshop. In all, about 1,300 residents shared their budget priorities with the city. At Tuesday’s meeting city staff shared the main themes from the public input and how they are reflected in the draft budget.
Neighborhood quality of life
Providing services that support neighborhood quality of life was a common theme among the community members who provided input on the budget. This included the impacts of increasing homelessness, short term vacation rentals and other concerns
The draft budget increases resources by 53% for implementation of the city’s Homeless Response Plan, which takes a “compassionate enforcement” approach to addressing homelessness in Carlsbad. This includes adding one new sergeant and two new officers to the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, which will allow specially trained officers to be available seven days a week. The city previously had two full time officers supervised by a police sergeant who also oversaw other specialized teams. The budget also adds a full-time manager for the city’s Homeless Response Plan and a “housing navigator” position to help people find rental housing.
Two new code enforcement staff will handle nuisance complaints, violations of short term vacation rental regulations and other city codes that affect neighborhoods.
A new construction contract administrator position will help minimize construction project delays due to contract-related processing. This will reduce the amount of time construction projects affect neighborhoods with lane closures, temporary parking restrictions, traffic, dust and noise.
$150,000 in new funding will enable the city to respond quickly to requests for new street lights in neighborhoods. This is in addition to $825,000 for ongoing streetlight replacements and $552,000 in additional funding for Village decorative lighting. A $760,000 Barrio street lighting project was funded in a previous year’s budget and is underway.
The draft budget increases the Police and Fire department budgets by a total of 12.5%. At $68 million, police and fire services represent 42% of the city’s general fund operating budget, the largest area of spending on day to day services. This includes:
In addition to the three new police positions for the Homeless Outreach Team, the budget adds two new traffic patrol officers, which will allow seven-day a week traffic enforcement, including around schools, to address increasing public concerns about speeding and traffic safety.
The addition of four police officers for patrol to address the nearly 100,000 annual calls for service and achieve targeted response times.
The addition of two records technicians to support public information requests and comply with new state mandates.
Adding four positions in the Fire Department to focus on fire prevention, including weed abatement and fire readiness, completing required annual fire inspections and meeting new state reporting requirements.
The addition of a business systems specialist in the Fire Department to address emerging technology to improve overall department effectiveness.
A new fire captain specialist to focus on firefighter/paramedic training and other department training needs.
$496,000 for new police and fire vehicles.
$206,000 in new spending on laptops, mobile phones and other technology for police officers in the field.
$605,000 in annual spending on the city’s new North Beach Lifeguard program.
$28,000 in new funding for IvyGene, an early warning cancer test for Fire Department personnel.
Parks, recreation, trails and open space
Community members shared a variety of priorities that fall within the Parks & Recreation Department’s responsibility, including wanting new parks, more trails and open space that is protected. Services for seniors were also important to many respondents. The draft budget includes $18.9 million in spending for parks, recreation, trails and open space, including the following:
A 9% budget increase to maintain the city’s current and new parks, trails and open space including:
o $108,000 to increase the level of recycling, trash and restroom maintenance along the Seawall.
o $85,000 to maintain newly acquired open space and the trail at Village H in northwest Carlsbad.
$3.1 million for a project to connect the trail at the west end of Agua Hedionda Lagoon to Tamarack Beach.
$759,000 to a project to put a new restroom and tot lot at Hosp Grove Park. This project now represents a total investment of $1.6 million.
The addition of $175,000 to a project that will create a new recreation area on a previously unused part of Calavera Hills Community Park, bringing the total investment to $1 million.
Reclassifying a full-time position to focus on senior services and intergenerational programs at the Pine Avenue Community Center.
An additional $900,000 for Senior Center renovations and an additional $770,000 for a project to renovate the Monroe Street Pool.
$600,000 for playground resurfacing at Aviara and Hidden Canyon parks.
$685,000 for refurbishment of the Calavera Hills Community Center.
$250,000 for Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park roof repairs.
Expanding the Opportunity Grant program by $40,000 a year to make city recreational programs available to residents who cannot otherwise afford to participate.
Two new positions and $2.6 million in drainage projects to keep lagoon and ocean water clean and healthy.
One new position to oversee enhanced recycling programs and ensure compliance with the state CalRecycle program.
Investing over $1 million in a new system to monitor and operate the city’s water and wastewater systems helping ensure safety and sustainability.
$6,000 for a new home energy savings program.
A full-time biologist and $526,000 in funding for the city’s Habitat Management Program.
$1.4 million in new spending for the city’s recycled water system.
Purchase of 25 additional plug-in and standard hybrid vehicles, adding to the 32 hybrid vehicles currently in the city fleet.
Transportation and mobility
Transportation and mobility issues discussed during this year’s public input process ranged from speeding in neighborhoods, traffic safety and traffic congestion, to creating more opportunities for safe walking and biking on city streets. City resources focused in these areas in the draft budget include:
The two new police officers for traffic patrol, which will allow for full seven-day a week traffic coverage including additional support for traffic coverage near schools.
$500,000 to continue work on intelligent traffic signals, flashing beacons and speed feedback signs to improve safety and traffic flow around the city.
$200,000 for a plan to develop more alternatives to people driving alone in their cars, something called “Transportation Demand Management.”
$1.1 million for the Poinsettia Lane connection between Cassia Road and El Camino Real.
$300,000 for the Residential Traffic Improvement Program, to work with neighborhoods on solutions to speeding.
Enhancing arts and culture
Many community members expressed a love for the arts and a desire to see more investment in this area. Some ways the draft budget supports the arts include:
Increased the annual budget for the city’s Cultural Arts Office by 11% for a new total of $1.3 million annually.
$75,000 in funding for new public art projects.
$45,000 for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) pilot program that will seek contracts with local artists and technical personnel to create either in-school or afterschool programming in partnership with local schools.
Continuing the popular TIGF Concerts in the Park series with nine events planned in 2020.
$50,000 for a new guest residency program that enables Carlsbad to host artists and provide connections and arts experiences to the community.
An $8,000 increase in community arts grant funding to support community-based arts programs and events, to bring the annual funding to $88,000.
Other Changes to the Budget Process
In addition to getting input from the public earlier in the process, city staff made other changes this year to how budget priorities are set. In past years all city departments started the budget process with the same increase, usually based on the rate of inflation. Likewise, up to 10% of unspent money in department budgets was automatically rolled over into the next year’s budget. Both of these practices were eliminated this year in favor of a department by department and program by program evaluation of need, based on data. As a result, city leaders had more flexibility in allocating resources strategically, rather than needing to ask for budget increases to cover every increase in spending.