From a city perspective, 2013 was packed with goals accomplished, problems surmounted and an ongoing deficit problem the city is likely to ask voters to help solve.
Mayor Joe Krovoza’s State of the City address to the Davis Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon may have lacked much new information, but illustrated the city’s perspective on a year of robust activity at City Hall.
From setting water rates to approving The Cannery housing project and establishing partnerships with groups like the Hattie Weber Museum and Explorit Science Center, Krovoza illustrated what the city views as its accomplishments.
He thanked The New Home Company, developers of The Cannery, for persevering through a controversial process. He specifically mentioned the affordable housing in the project, saying city leaders had “one hand tied behind our backs” because Davis lacks the funding available to other cities.
Krovoza also shined a positive light on dour financial charts and numbers, showing that the city had responded to mounting red ink by reducing its work force by 22 percent and taking the painful step of trimming staffing levels at the Davis Fire Department.
With a general fund of $40 million, employee agreements forced on unions that had not finalized their contracts in November and December will save $5 million over two years.
In another slide, the mayor illustrated how the city was being a good financial planner by ignoring advice it said seemed too rosy, in favor of taking into account advice about pension liabilities that was drastically worse. Krovoza said the city is building a rainy-day fund to deal with pension liabilities.
Another project for which the city is squirreling away proverbial acorns? Roads. Streets cost exponentially more to repair the further down the quality scale they go.
“We’re trying to create enough money in our budget now to avoid a huge cost in the future,” Krovoza said.
One other huge cost is the city’s ongoing deficit of $4 million per year. The mayor said the city likely will lose a $3.09 million reserve if something doesn’t happen soon, such as voter approval of a sales or parcel tax. Talking about sales taxes, Krovoza said Davis had last seen a sales tax increase in 2010, but the city’s rate remains lower than that of other nearby cities.
“We need to come to a decision on whether we put something on the ballot by … end of January,” he said.
Long term, Krovoza said an innovation park, where biotech and other firms can locate in town, could put “six, seven, eight” companies on 200 acres, depending on where it’s located in the city.
But Krovoza said the right approach is crucial for the city, and it needs to take time to consider the option that would work best.
“I’ve been nervous to overreach in the economic development area for fear of setting ourselves back,” he said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews