Few cheers for new RP budget
Enthusiasm fades as city’s debt expected to be $1.4 million for fiscal year 2013-14
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By Jud Snyder  June 13, 2013 09:31 am

Rohnert Park has an acceptable 2013-14 municipal budget, but nobody’s tossing their hat in the air or calling for a tankard of ale in celebration. At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, it was more like, “Thank goodness that’s over,” than, “Gee, that was fun, let’s do it again.”

The council quintet spent the last four months examining the proposed budget like biology professors at microscopes dissecting amoeba segments.

The reason for the council’s lack of enthusiasm arose from reports and PowerPoint slide shows from Finance Director Cathy Orme and Accounting Supervisor Ana Kwong. 

The total operating revenue (in the General Fund) is projected to be $24.5 million and budgeted operating expenditures are estimated to be $25.9 million. This leaves the city with a $1.4 million deficit. Said Kwong, “The budget deficit is operationally manageable by continuing to exercise fiscal discipline and adhering to the cash basis budgeting format we practice.” 

How does the city get its revenue? It receives $6.32 million from sales taxes, $3.17 million from Measure E (which ends in 2015), $2.9 million from the state, mostly from DMV fees), $2 million from hotel occupancy charges, $1.57 million from community services fees, $1.5 million from franchise fees, $1.01 million from licenses and permits and the rest from a myriad of sources.

Who gets the money? Dept of Public Safety gets $15.210 million, or 59 percent of the total,  Community Services get $2.36 million, Dept. of Public Works gets $2.06 million, Administration gets $1.8 million, Retiree Medical gets $1.7 million and the rest get less than a million dollars down to $326,151 for fees and building expenses.

Accepting these reports, an unsmiling city council had comments of their own.

“It’s a strange territory the city’s in,” Councilman Jake Mackenzie said. “We’ve built no housing units, but Green Music Center by SSU is at one end and the Graton Tribe casino is at the other end, two massive structures, but the city cannot provide accommodations for either.” He mentioned the casino’s mitigation funds to the city. “Not all of that has to go to solve traffic problems. I’d like to see a five- or ten-year fiscal picture drawn up for us to see for we really don’t have a long range plan.”

“This budget is actually a financial failure,” said Gina Belforte. “It’s depressing and our 40 percent business vacancy rate is frightening. I, too would like to see a long range plan for our future.”

“We have no housing being built, but you have to remember new homes cost the city money with road maintenance and just hopes new residents will spend money locally,” said vice-Mayor Joe Callinan, wearing his left arm in a sling due to surgery on an injured shoulder. “I’m all for this budget even though we’re still in the red.”

Amy Ahanotu agreed with his council mates and noted “all of us have to keep a careful eye” on this year’s budgetary process. “We have to go beyond mere words.”

“We’ve been working on this budget four months,” said Mayor Pam Stafford. She indicated all council members would have to keep these figures in mind when projects come to the city council level.

The council thanked Orme, Kwong and their staff team for presenting the figures. No vote was taken, but it was obvious the final 2013-14 budget will be approved at their next meeting June 25.

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