Budget crunch looms

City to tackle loss in revenue May 20

Del Mar faces declining revenues and a looming budget deficit as the city council heads into its annual budget workshops May 20 and 21.

Revenues continued to fall, bringing the total revenue loss to $900,000 for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. In an almost $10 million budget, that is a 9 percent cut.

The city has been able to absorb the loss by not filling vacant staff positions, not funding projects, having project bids coming in cheaper than anticipated and generally spending less, said Teresa McBroome, accounting manager and city treasurer.

However, the city is preparing for a significant budget gap beginning next year.

“The next two years, it’s even more dismal,” City Manager Karen Brust said. “We are more than $2 million short for next year.”

City employees are investigating ways to cope with falling sales and transient occupancy taxes, and relatively flat property taxes, Brust said.

Property taxes are expected to increase 1.6 percent next year, a much smaller increase than the typical 7 to 8 percent, she said.

“Executive staff have been working really hard to look at everything, find different ways of doing things and not sacrifice service,” McBroome said.

A proposed budget for the next two fiscal years is expected to be available for public review by today, May 15.

While some major infrastructure projects may proceed because they have outside funding, such as the 29th Street pump station, marine safety center and Torrey Pines bridge, the city may have to postpone all other infrastructure improvements - even street maintenance, Brust said.

Also, staff will not receive pay increases for the next two years, hiring will remain frozen and the city may even have to consider unpaid furloughs, Brust said.

The budget workshops are May 20 at 5:30 p.m. and May 21 at 1 p.m. at the Del Mar TV Studio. The public is welcome to attend and provide input.