There is credible evidence that the city’s financial condition is improving. In my recent analysis of the city administration’s April budget package, I was encouraged to see that city staff are now 1) recognizing that property and sales tax revenues are increasing significantly and 2) incorporating an additional $1.2 million in actions to reduce general fund costs into the budget plan that will be presented for final City Council approval in June. This is in addition to $11 million in budget reductions adopted by the council over the past several years.
Even more budget reductions are needed and possible, in my opinion, to achieve fiscal balance and restore a city budget reserve. A stronger push is needed for economic development actions that are the best prescription in the long term for our fiscal ills.
But my analysis as a longtime budget professional shows that some additional revenues are needed in the mix to stabilize city finances and get started on a backlog of infrastructure and deferred maintenance projects.
That’s why I support Measure O, the half-percent sales tax increase on the June ballot. Measure O will cost the purchaser of a $100 retail item an additional 50 cents. Nobody likes higher taxes, but that’s a small price to pay for avoiding the much deeper budget cuts that otherwise would be necessary in every major area of city services.
As a member of the city’s Finance and Budget Commission, I’m not speaking for the commission but as a private citizen. However, I believe that approval of Measure O is a reasonable and prudent step to help get city finances back on track.