Mayor’s View: City of Del Mar progress update

I was at lunch the other day with a friend who asked me how the City was doing. I described a number of areas where the City is making progress. His response was “I didn’t know all that was going on.” So maybe it would be good to share some significant steps we are taking that may not be so visible to your readers.

Fairgrounds Governance

Thanks to the hard work of Don Mosier and Lee Haydu, we have been able to communicate to our County and State elected officials our desire to have Del Mar, Solana Beach and San Diego represented in the new Joint Powers Authority being formed by the 22nd DAA and the County.

Supervisor Ron Roberts and DAA President Adam Day have proposed a JPA made up of nine members of the DAA Board and five County Supervisors, leaving out any representation from the cities that surround the Fairgrounds. Whether Supervisor Ron Roberts and Adam Day will ultimately agree to have local representation on this new governance body is still uncertain. But we have made the point that the quality of decisions regarding Fairgrounds operations will be much improved if the perspectives of the surrounding communities are considered. And isn’t that what this proposal should be; better governance and regional oversight? If Del Mar and the other two cities are not allowed to participate, all that will have been accomplished is the establishment of a new entity that permits 22nd DAA employees to receive higher pay and benefits. That is not better governance.

A Balanced Budget

In May, the City Council reviewed and adopted the proposed City Budget for 2013-14, and 2014-15. The budget for 2013-14 is planned to be $19 million, and for 2014-15, $19.3 million. This compares to the budget of 2012-2013 of $19.9 million. Our General Fund Contingency Reserves remain over 10 percent at 19.5 percent and 24.9 percent for each of the two years.

Pension Liabilities

All cities in California have been impacted by the recession. Most cities are facing a situation where their pension benefits promised to employees are more than the asset values of the CalPERs investment pool. Del Mar is no exception. We have an estimated $9 million unfunded pension liability that needs to be funded. Thanks to the hard work of Jim Eckmann, Tom McGreal, and members of the Finance Committee, we are developing a strategy to correct the problem over the next several years. This year we are taking the first step by paying off a $3 million Side Fund obligation that has cost the City interest payments of 7.5 percent annually. Our next step is to set aside roughly $220,000 per year as a local savings account to offset and gradually eliminate our unfunded pension liabilities. How to save that amount is a question the City Council will be discussing in the weeks ahead.

Long-term Forecast

It is difficult to predict the future. But for the first time, Scott Huth and his staff have put together a 30-year forecast to project the City’s revenues and expenditures. This allows for better decisions when it comes to determining how the community can pay for needed improvements.

Business Support Advisory Committee

Our Council has had concerns for the economic health of the downtown. The Del Mar Village Association is very active promoting the downtown. We have a three-year-old Tourism Business Investment District that uses a 1 percent fee on hotel rates to market the hotels in Del Mar. But that effort has grown slowly. To make sure that City government is not an obstacle for businesses to locate and grow in our downtown, the Council established a Business Support Advisory Committee, made up of business owners, to recommend ways city processes and regulations could be improved. Councilmembers Al Corti and Sherryl Parks were instrumental in getting this done.

Public Safety

A big issue we have been addressing is the increasing costs and level of service of our contract with the Sheriff. How can we control costs and provide a higher level of police service to our residents? Under the leadership of Jim Benedict and Barry Entous, the Finance Committee has been looking at options the city has in providing police services. The City has hired an outside consultant to review our options and provide recommendations to the City Manager and Council.

New Projects

We are moving forward on some important projects in the coming year. We hope to develop a facilities plan which documents our long-term needs for office space. This will include options for how to achieve our goal for a new City Hall. The development of a Shores Park master plan will begin. Efforts will continue to put in more sidewalks to improve pedestrian flow. And we will see a milestone completion of the Torrey Pines Bridge seismic retrofit.

These are my list of significant activities. Be sure to contact the other members of the City Council for their perspectives.

Terry Sinnott

Del Mar