Del Mar feels effects of weak economy

Despite a decline in Del Mar's two main revenue sources, city officials say they're monitoring the numbers but aren't in a situation where cuts are needed.

While sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenues dropped in the first quarter of the fiscal year, the city's major revenue source - property tax - remained stable, according to the financial report given to the council Nov. 17.

"It's an interesting time, as we all know," said Assistant City Manager Mark Devlin in presenting the report.

Devlin said with consumer confidence plummeting, sales tax revenues have fallen 10.9 percent from a year ago and are projected to continue to do so this fiscal year.

The sales tax numbers put the city third worst in the county behind Lemon Grove and National City. Overall retail sales are down 4 percent countywide.

Transient occupancy, or hotel tax (TOT), dropped off in the last fiscal year for the first time in four years, due in large part, said Devlin, to the temporary closure of the L'Auberge hotel for remodeling.

Slower hotel bookings in the first quarter has prompted the city's finance department to decrease projected TOT revenue by $130,000 through June 30, 2009.

On Nov. 4, Del Mar voters granted an approval for the City Council to increase the city's TOT to 13 percent from its current 10.5 percent.

A bright spot in the financial report was property tax. Projected at $3.3 million - a 2.4 percent increase from the prior year - Devlin said the projection could even be revised upward after December's property tax payments.

Property values remain strong in the city, as the County Assessor's office ranks Del Mar as having the highest rate of property appreciation in the county for the current fiscal year with a 10 percent growth rate. The city of Coronado ranks second on the list at 8 percent.

Information in the report indicated the Del Mar Racetrack felt the economic pinch this summer. The city's share of on-track pari-mutuel, or betting revenues, saw a 31.7 percent decrease from last year's take.

Overall, Del Mar's general fund contingency reserve was reduced from 11.1 percent to 10.4 percent of the city's general fund - slightly above the council-mandated 10 percent. The fund currently holds $277,000.

Devlin told the council city staff would be continually checking revenues and expenditures during the current economic downturn.

"We will be monitoring everything we can think of," he said.

   
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