Despite a slow but encouraging climb back from the recession that thumped the local economy in 2008, the city of Davis, like many communities across the state, continues to face a long list of tough budget decisions that stand in the way of short- and long-term fiscal sustainability.
To begin to grasp the city’s still-precarious fiscal standing, the City Council on Tuesday will be tossed a bowl full of budget-related agenda items that it must manage if it wants to reach solid fiscal ground.
Among the regular items on the agenda, the council will hear an update on the status of the budget for fiscal year 2012-13, a preview of the budget for fiscal year 2013-14 and, enmeshed within those discussions, the plan and associated costs to maintain the city’s roads, bike paths, street lights and parks watering.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers of City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. It will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. It also will be streamed lived on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media.
2013-14 budget preview
City Manager Steve Pinkerton begins his fiscal year 2013-14 budget report to the council with the news that the city will have to overcome a $2 million structural deficit in the general fund next year and that it will have to “make some difficult choices to fund deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs” to address it.
However, as Pinkerton points out, that deficit could have snowballed even further had the city not signed favorable contracts with the majority of its labor groups through labor negotiations over the past year. The city has yet to lock in deals with the Davis Firefighters Local 3494 and the Davis City Employees Association.
“The savings agreed to with our labor partners have made the funding gap far more manageable,” Pinkerton said in the report.
That deficit level assumes, however, that the city will begin paying for its water and sewer services, that the city’s negotiation team will have reached deals with the remaining two labor groups by July 1 and that the council ultimately will decide to drop firefighter staffing levels to 11, per the recommendation of former Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley, among other things.
Still, even with a softer payroll and the other proposed cost-saving measures, Pinkerton believes the council will have to look at additional revenue sources such as increasing its half-cent sales tax rate, which expires in 2016, and its parks maintenance tax when it expires in 2018.
The budget item is informational. Pinkerton will return on April 30 with a full budget plan for the council’s review and approval.
Roads, bike paths
No decision within the budget’s deferred maintenance line item may garner more attention from the council than road and bike path infrastructure repairs.
In February, a consultant hired to assess the city’s road and bike path infrastructure stunned the council with its findings, explaining that if the city doesn’t increase the amount of money it allocates annually to roads and bike path maintenance, a backlog of about $440 million in repairs will be built up by 2032.
Meanwhile, the majority of streets and bike paths in Davis will have failed.
For the past few years, the city has dedicated only about $1 million to maintaining its road and bike path systems.
Interim Public Works Director Bob Clarke will lay out several short-term actions the council can take Tuesday — including lowering the general goal for the average pavement condition index (PCI) from 70 to the low 60s and compiling a list of “higher priority” streets and paths to maintain moving forward — before coming back later in the year with a more complete financing plan.
The council also will receive brief presentations on the city’s street light maintenance and parks water management programs Tuesday.
With the City Council last month adopting higher water rates over the next five years to pay for the surface water project, the city — which plans to budget for the water it uses on city property next year unlike it has in the past — is looking at ways to reduce water costs.
The council will receive a report Tuesday on just how the city can reduce its water consumption costs, which are expected to rise to $3 million per year by 2018 should no conservation measures be taken.
Staff reports for all agenda items can be found on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org under the City Council Meeting Agendas page.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash