City: No immediate impact for residents from cash crunch
A slowing economy and home-building coming to a near standstill has hit city finances hard, but residents shouldn't feel an impact unless the economy gets worse, and stays bad for several years, according to city hall's top "green eyeshade guy."
The city's director of management services, Brian Johnson, outlined the bad news at a city council budget workshop Tuesday afternoon. Fiscal Year 2007-2008 budget revenue is "lower than expected," but expenses are right on track.
"The city is -- because we've got significant reserves, and because we've paid off the lion's share of the debt in the general fund -- we're in pretty good shape," Johnson said Friday.
Johnson and his staff had expected the city to bring in more than $26 million in general fund revenues in Fiscal Year 2007-2008. But at the mid-point in the fiscal year -- Hesperia's economic year begins each July 1 -- revenue projections are being adjusted downward, to less than $25 million.
"We're facing noticeable declines in sales tax revenue, noticeable declines in fees related to building, and also in fees relating to new development," he said. "With [fees paid by developers] down, over time, that means we will have less money to do infrastructure improvements."
But there won't be any impacts that will be obvious to most residents unless things don't turn around in the next few years, he said. And that means the city's street paving plan -- long the biggest hot-button issue with Hesperia voters -- will be among the last things cut.
"We have every interest in keeping our street maintenance program as strong as possible," Johnson said. "We will be doing $10 million this next year."
That's lower than the $21 million budget for the street maintenance program this fiscal year, and it relies on a different fund. The city has multiple separate piggy banks that, by law, operate independently of each other, and the problems facing the general fund are not shared by the fire district, water district or redevelopment agency, each of which continues on without disruption.
Next year's street paving money "won't come heavily from our general fund," Johnson said, "It will come pretty strongly from our redevelopment agency money."
There will be no new San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputies next fiscal year. (There will be two more on city streets in the coming months, though, when previously paid-for deputies become available.) The fire district is on track to add an additional ambulance and personnel in Fiscal Year 2009-2010, Johnson said.
Even with the housing market's continuing decline and economic woes state and nationwide, Johnson said the Hesperia City Council is behaving responsibly.
"I give the council big credit because they don't push for more than what we can pay for," he said.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.