The Davis City Council heard a presentation on next year’s budget Tuesday night, and while there were no dramatic shortfalls or deficits, feelings among the council were mixed.
City manager Bill Emlen and finance director Paul Navazio presented the proposed budget Tuesday night after a series of workshops earlier this year designed to prepare councilmembers with what to expect. The proposed budget includes a balancing plan to close an $855,000 deficit.
“We knew it was going to be a leaner year,” Emlen said. “The economics have changed the past year or two, [and we have to account for that].”
The proposed budget will result in the elimination of three city staff positions. A full-time assistant planner in the Community Development department, a part-time office assistant in the Davis Fire Department and a part-time call-taker in the Davis Police Department will be eliminated. All of these positions are currently vacant.
Although the city manager presented a balanced budget, the proposal includes a list of several unmet needs. The city will not be able to fund an aquatic facility in South Davis ($200,000 per year), a four fire engine company ($1,624,000 per year), street maintenance and repair (up to $2.4 million per year), fire department battalion chiefs ($388,000 per year) or benefits for former city employees ($2 million per year).
Emlen said he emphasizes the problems Davis faces, which are small in comparison to other communities.
“All you’ve got to do is drive around some cities in the region, and the pothole problems and things like that become very apparent very quickly,” he said. “It’s clearly not limited to Davis.”
Reactions among councilmembers were mixed.
“I like to celebrate triumphs, and I think this is a triumph,” said Councilmember Stephen Souza. “There is a lot of work we still need to do.”
Mayor Sue Greenwald was not as enthusiastic.
“We’re not in better shape than we’ve been in years,” Greenwald said. “That’s just not true…. We need to stop patting ourselves on the back and have a sober assessment of our position.”
Greenwald said the council had to stop ignoring the “Three hundred pound gorilla in the room,” which she said was the state of sewer and water projects worth $365 million that will have to be completed in the near future.
She said she was concerned about the city’s ability to fund unmet needs in the future because the city’s ability to raise taxes through bond measures is limited by the school district’s and vice versa.
“But I think we’re doing a pretty good job of understanding it,” she said.
Councilmember Don Saylor praised the staff for its efforts.
“We have a four-year planning effort coming to fruition now,” he said. “Having this list of unfunded requests is an excellent tool for us.”
A looming issue is what impact the state budget situation, which Emlen called “ominous,” will have on the city’s funding sources.
“We feel we are positioned to weather these types of impacts, particularly with the short term reserve,” he said.
The proposed budget includes a 15 percent reserve, and Emlen said he expected that to be sufficient in case the state budget includes measures that take funding from cities.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first in a series of meetings leading up to the adoption of a budget on June 24. A public hearing will be held May 20 to discuss proposed changes in fees charge for city services, another council workshop will be held May 27 and the council will make amendments to the budget June 10.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.