Santee City Council Talks Budget Cuts

"I'm convinced we can get there without layoffs, eliminating programs, or meat ax approach."

Last Wednesday's Santee was no show and all work. The kind of number crunching, difficult decision making work that the City Council signed up for when they - it's budget time.

"I'm convinced we can get there without layoffs, eliminating programs, or meat ax approach," said in beginning discussions over the City's Draft Two-Year Operating Budget for FY 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Budget talks took up most of the meeting, as they will make up most of the next few meetings, and were filled with such optimistically dire comments as those of the City Manager. Like the last few budget seasons, money is tight and decisions will have to be made by the councilmembers that will invariably affect the lives of residents.

Lately, the 's revenues haven't quite kept up with expenditures, and though the City has one of the best reserves to budget ratios in the county, the Council is not fond of spending the City's savings. In Fiscal Year 2011-2012 the City is expected to take in $30.6 million and spend $31.5 million.

In the last three years Santee has dipped into $2.6 million of reserve funds, and over the next two fiscal years the City plans to use another $1.4 million.

In order to avoid city layoffs or eliminating key city programs and services to reach the equilibrium city leaders have come up with a few ideas, such as increasing the hotel tax, changing city employee benefit contributions, and lowering the amount of money put into savings, none of which would singularly balance the budget.

There are three key components to the $627,450 increase in this upcoming budget:

CalPERS retirement costs for city employees will drastically increase in the next two fiscal years, costing the city about $400,000 more.

• Law enforcement costs- Last year the City paid about 37 percent of it's general fund to the ($11.4 million), and in return 40 sworn deputies, nine Community Safety Officers and seven Detectives protect Santee. These costs will increase by $428,000 in FY 2011-12. About $100,000 in other law enforcement grants and funding will be lost as well.

• Elimination of city employee furloughs- Since October 2009, all Santee city non-safety and management employees have been required to take 3.75 percent, or 78 hours, of unpaid furlough each year, saving the general fund over $200,000 a year. Because this was meant to be a temporary action, and due to several large upcoming city projects, these furloughs are set to be eliminated in July.

Santee's general fund revenue comes from three main sources:

• Property tax- This tax accounts for 39 percent of general fund revenue and is expected to grow by 1.8 percent in the next couple fiscal years.

• - About 26 percent of Santee's general fund revenue comes from this tax, which is amongst the lowest in the county. The city expects a 3.5 percent growth rate for this tax for the next two fiscal years.

• Franchise Fee- Companies like Cox Communications and SDG&E have to pay the city for the rights to provide services to their residents, and Santee gets about $2.4 million a year from this source. Councilmembers discussed the option of charging more for these fees and said they would likely begin discussions with the companies about this.

said he was prepared to go through the City's budget line-by-line, as they did last year, when the Council managed to cut $400,000 from expenditures. Normally a reserve fund hawk, Voepel said he is willing to relax savings even more this year.

City Manager Keith Till used the that opened up this winter as an example of why the city needs to keep a healthy reserve fund intact.

The budget talks have just begun, and Santee Patch will do our best to get the facts out in an easy to understand manner.

Other Notes from the Meeting:

• Santee Patch readers will be happy to know that Councilmember Jack Dale mentioned opening and connecting . Nothing tangible came of it, but this shows it is still on the Council's mind.

"I'm not sure where money will come from, or who to speak to to get that going, but we need to get on that," Dale said.

• Interesting fact: Director of Development Services Pedro Orso-Delgado said that the City staffing engineer has provided data that shows in 2020 SANDAG predicts a Santee population of 64,000, a 10,000 person increase.

• Orso-Delgado also mentioned that Santee has seen a 40 percent decrease in traffic on Mission Gorge Road since the SR-52 opening, but a 40 percent traffic increase on Cuyamaca Street south of Mission Gorge Road because of ramp access. He said the decrease on Mission Gorge relieves response time for law enforcement and traffic law enforcement issues, which is a relief to the City's general services department.

• Councilmember wasn't happy with the city being stuck with $1.1 million (about $20 per person in Santee) in costs for three firefighter positions that were added three years ago in advance of the expected development. The developer was supposed to pay most of those costs, but due to the developer's bankruptcy, the city is stuck with them.


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