A bump in city revenue allowed the City Council on Tuesday to put some money into desired unfunded or underfunded projects and to stash some cash in case federal reimbursement for flood damage repairs is not forthcoming.
Increases in property, bed and sales taxes and parking fees, higher employee contributions toward pensions and reductions in department spending resulted in about $3.2 million more spendable revenue than expected when the 2012-13 budget was approved. However, City Manager John Pietig warned the council not to expect increases to continue at the same rate.
"We had a good bump and that's great, but I think it is one we cannot count on in the next two or three years," Pietig cautioned. "And the city is facing some challenges such as increased health care and retirement costs and the capital equipment requests are not completely funded."
The council voted to set aside about one-third of the money as a contingency fund in the event that the city loses its second appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for projects related to 2010 flooding. If the appeal is successful, which Pietig said will be difficult, the funds will be added to the $800,000 earmarked for the countywide safety communication system, bringing the fund up to almost half of the city's share.
Other Pietig recommendations and justifications approved by the council:
•$400,000 to bulk up the Insurance Fund. Higher-than-expected claims related to the 2010 storm have exceeded the amount allocated to liability insurance.
•$80,000 for the zoning department to contract for services or hire a full-time assistant planner. Increased Community Development Department fees over the next two years should offset the costs.
•$20,000 for an arborist to survey and evaluate city-owned trees in Bluebird Canyon and prepare a replacement and maintenance program.
•$11,200 to increase the Marine Protection Officer hours to 24 hours a week. Hours were reduced to 20 per week several years ago. The increased hours will allow for two patrols a week and to complete report writing, court duty and scheduling school groups.
•$15,000 to promote improved customer service and training.
•$72,000 to monitor compliance with the State Water Board exemption that allows storm water and urban runoff into the Heisler Park area of special biological significance.
•$251,200 for department replacement requests, including $37,000 for servers in the CAD/RMS system, $75,000 for four fire station's emergency alerting system, $85,000 for City Hall employees' chairs, $54,200 for new computers and $10,000 for cabinets in the emergency operations center
•$142,000 for information technology and equipment, including $10,000 to analyze Fire Department response time and $20,000 for protective vests, $15,000 to improve the "look and feel" of the city's website, $37,000 for online plan review and drawings and $60,000 to provide enhance report writing, and online/Intranet timesheets, purchase orders and accounts payable to upgrade the city's finance system.
•$593,200 to increase the funds for capital equipment replacement.
"Five or six years ago, the city was able to budget $700,000 for equipment replacement," Pietig said. "When the recession hit, we had to cut back."
The current budget for capital equipment is $100,000.
•$12,800 from the Housing in Lieu Fund to pay down the county loan for parking spaces under the affordable housing at 450 Glenneyre St. and $10,000 to hire a consultant for a permanent housing project proposed by Friendship Shelter and Jamboree Housing.
•$32,000 from the Sewer Fund to buy unused radio frequency from Long Beach for the city's sewer alarm system.
Pietig also recommended using the savings from the Heisler Park project to supplement the Mar Vista utility undergrounding, installation of a new heating and air conditioning unit at the Animal Shelter and replacement of rotted wood at City Hall.
The council also took advantage of the bump to fund signage to get bicyclists off of Coast Highway and a request by Councilwoman Toni Iseman for $30,000 to keep the Alternate Sleeping Location open during the day throughout festival season and for $50,000 to install cameras on public streets.
The updated midyear budget was approved with a 4-0 vote, with Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson absent.