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Highlights of this week's City Council meeting

The Council will consider adopting next fiscal year’s $54.4 million budget, which begins July 1. This is a ‘status quo’ budget, with very few changes from last year—and represents a second year of avoiding cuts in the budget. This budget was prepared in concert with an intensive year-long fiscal sustainability effort, so the City Manager recommended only minor changes to the FY 13/14 operating budget in order to allow Council to make longer term financial decisions as part of the sustainability process.

Some takeaways for the upcoming year’s budget:

City revenues are slightly better as we very slowly emerge from the recession. General Fund revenues are projected to increase to $28.9 million next year (just over 1% from last year). The recession has impacted all of the City’s revenue sources, but in particular property tax, sales tax, interest earnings and development fees. For FY 2012/13, property tax is expected to be $275,000 below budget, interest earnings continue at historic lows and sales tax is down $325,000 (due primarily to slower growth than what was forecast during last year’s budget process). Unfortunately, Novato’s sales tax revenues are not increasing at the same rate as other Marin and Bay Area communities.

Based on some staffing changes and vacancies in a few departments, the overall savings will be higher than anticipated. Staff estimates budget savings of $720K with almost all of these savings from vacant positions. The City continues to monitor vacancies carefully and hold vacancies open when possible. With reductions in both revenues and expenditures, staff estimates ending the fiscal year with a deficit $530K versus the $594K that was budgeted.

The Capital Improvement Budget is estimated at $14.2 million, with about $9.3 million of this total carried over, unspent funding from prior years for previously approved projects that will continue in the new fiscal year. Approximately $4.8 million is new funding allocated for both new and continuing projects in the 2013/14 fiscal year. The majority of the capital funds are one-time funds that are specialized to be utilized for capital investments.

Below are some of the key projects for FY 2013/14:

· Complete construction of new City offices building in downtown;

· Community improvement including the reconstruction of tennis courts at Pioneer Park and repaving of tennis courts at Thigpen;

· Phase 1 of parking lot improvements to Downtown Depot site;

· Restart Novato Boulevard street widening project; and,

· Continued street paving and some intersection and pedestrian improvements at various locations.

The proposed budget can be found here or on the City’s home page, under “departments & services.”

Additionally, Council will also be discussing the City’s long-term financial plan (fiscal sustainability plan)—which will set the tone over the next few years regarding City finances and service levels to the community. The City has also released a web-based budget options tool which allows the public to see & experience, in a nutshell, the various options the Council will be considering. Two community meetings will be held on July 2 & 8 to go over the tool and plan with the community.

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