Santa Fe Springs Tries Out 2-Year Budgeting System

Times Staff Writer

In an attempt to design a better fiscal road map for itself, Santa Fe Springs has adopted its first two-year budget, a decision city officials say will allow more efficient planning of capital projects and avoid the tedious, time-consuming annual budget process.

"We're willing to experiment," said Mayor Lorenzo Sandoval. "Since we have a pretty good handle on the revenues that are coming to the city, that makes a lot of difference. We're not one of the cities that are fighting for revenues. But if it doesn't work, we'll just go back to the annual review."

Heavily industrialized Santa Fe Springs derives about 60% of its revenue from sales taxes, a rate Sandoval says is not expected to fluctuate much.

Freedom for Innovation

In his budget message to the council, City Manager Don Powell said, "This stability allows the city staff to pursue innovative and creative ideas that occasionally contain some risks."

The council approved operating budgets of $17.4 million for both fiscal 1987-88 and fiscal 1988-89, excluding funding for the redevelopment agency. The operating budget for 1986-87 was $17 million.

Powell first proposed the a two-year budget plan three years ago, but he said council members rejected it because "they weren't as confident in the budget process as they are now."

The two-year time frame was selected because that's about how long in takes to complete a capital project from its inception, he said.

The extended budget is a way for the city to improve its strategic planning, Powell said, but it also entails the risk of some departments overestimating costs to create a fiscal cushion against unexpected expenses.

Quarterly Reviews

Powell hopes to avert that problem through the council's quarterly reviews of the budget and periodic revisions as required, he said.

Sandoval said the council will save at least 15 to 20 hours of time by not having to go through the budget review process next spring and the city will save money by not using staff time to prepare the lengthy document.

The public still will be able to comment on next year's budget during the quarterly budget review sessions.

"The process will have to be the same, but we won't have all that paper work that we have now," Sandoval said.

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