The mayor’s thoughts on Arroyo Grande’s budget process
June 21, 2016
OPINION by MAYOR JIM HILL
The end of June is budget preparation time at public agencies, and I found myself having to oppose Arroyo Grande’s mid-cycle budget adjustments.
In order to reduce the overall time spent, Arroyo Grande operates on a two-year budget cycle. Fiscal year July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 is the second half of a budget cycle planned and approved a year ago. This year’s budget effort is reduced to reviewing the first year of the cycle and making allowances for unexpected items and adjustments to accounts that are trending to exceed or fall short of the predictions made at the outset.
The ultimately approved adjustments included funding a number of new consultant contracts, including various facilitators and an incomprehensibly purposed grant writer. I did not support the proposal.
The budget for the Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) is prepared and approved annually by the FCFA Board. Each member agency provides budget guidance to its FCFA Board representative.
I believe the proposed 7 percent increase in FCFA’s budget is not sustainable. Added difficulty arises when major costs for FCFA come in the second year of the city cycle and must be accommodated by reducing other parts of the city’s previously-approved budget. I support providing needed FCFA equipment, but do not agree with the disjointed process that segregates the FCFA component for consideration before the remainder of the city budget.
I believe all foreseeable needs of the city should be presented to the council at once, so that priorities can be ranked and funding allocated accordingly. An improvement would be to have both organizations on the same budget cycle. The promised organizational review of FCFA should consider these budgeting problems up to and including whether FCFA should be reorganized as an independent agency.
Goal setting is usually timed before other budget discussions, but this time we were asked to indicate our goals after approval of the budget. Here are the goals I have submitted:
1. Simplify and streamline the permitting process and provide predictable, fair, impartial and consistent treatment for development applicants.
– Provide single point of contact with city
– Establish comprehensive requirements checklist
– Plan adequate parking to minimize internal and external impacts
– Eliminate arbitrary and subjective requirements and enforcement
2. Significant business attraction, recruitment and retention efforts
– Focus areas, e.g., Grand Ave, Halcyon, West Branch
– Hotel developments
– Grocery stores
– Major retail
3. Develop sustainable success path for Five Cities Fire Authority including full cost accounting of all aspects
– Direct inclusion in city budget process on city budget schedule (2 year) -OR-
– Separate independent agency
4. Fully staff Police Department
– Continue to attract highest qualified candidates in market
– Expand promotional opportunities (administrative sergeant)
5. Maintain high quality, cost effective services PW/Rec/Admin
– Set asides for maintenance of public facilities and infrastructure
– Payment plan for PERS, OPEB
– Minimize consultant contracts
6. Provide reliable, economical, long term water supply
– Work with Northern Cities Management Area partners and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District to initiate full advanced treatment recycling
– Define costs and prerequisites for potential backup sources
7. Maintain Brisco ramp temporary closure and construction funding allocation, consider alternatives
– Extend temporary closure in parallel with extended delays in project funding
– Use funding delay period to consider additional options, e.g., off ramp only; widening underpass