After years of removing items from the budget, the Napa City Council will have the chance to add new items in the years ahead.
Tuesday, the council got its first public look at what could be included in the budgets of the next two fiscal years. The documents, which will come back to the council at two public hearings in June, will likely include the restoration of some cuts of recent years, as well as new projects, services and staff.
“It’s great to be in this position,” Councilman Peter Mott said. “When Juliana (Inman) and I got on the council our first year it was nothing like this budget. The decision packages were significantly different about who had to get cut and how.”
The city is expected to remain in the black for at least the next six years, City Manager Mike Parness said. Revenue and expenditures are expected to grow slightly in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 budgets.
“The economic outlook of the city, the state of the city, is positive,” Parness told the council. “We believe that revenues are stabilizing. ... We think we’re seeing slow and steady growth unlike many cities. There are many cities throughout the state that are still suffering from severe shortfalls and are out of balance.”
In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the city expects General Fund revenues to be $66.8 million and expenditures to be at $66.2 million. In the following year, revenues are projected to be $69.2 million while expenditures are projected to be $68.3 million.
“We’re doing much better than most but we need to be strategic in our approach,” Parness said. “We need to take a long-term view and in making short-term decisions, we understand the long-term ramifications. ... We believe we’ve factored that into the recommendations we’re making.”
No cost-of-living adjustments are budgeted in the upcoming two years, but the city will enter into labor negotiations with all employee groups over that time. At least one employee union representative spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting to say the union looks forward to negotiations and hopes to restore some of the concessions made to balance the budget over the past few years.
The proposed budget, which will be before the council again June 4, will restore some positions that were lost over the past few years as the city tried to make ends meet in a slumping economy.
“It was our hope we could start building up the parks staff resources because they’ve been hit harder than most during the downturn,” Parness said.
The council could sign off on an additional laborer in each of the next two years, in addition to restoring some positions in the finance and administration departments over the two budget cycles.
In the coming years, money may be set aside to prepare for additional hires when Fire Station No. 5 opens in Browns Valley, possibly in three years. In the 2014-15 year, the city plans to begin hiring for a new downtown policing beat, adding one new officer that year and in each of the several years following.
The city may also extend the hours of the senior center so clubs and nonprofit groups that meet there won’t have to pay high fees to have someone work overtime to open and close the building.
One of the bigger additions that could be included in the upcoming budgets is funding for the Workorder Asset Management Program, which Parness called, “The next big improvement in terms of our computerized management systems.”
The program would allow the city to map the locations of all of its assets, from trees to pipelines to stop signs, along with corresponding data. Using GPS devices, temporary employees would canvass the city and collect data on the exact location of every asset, its age, life span, condition and more.
“For a city our size that’s trying to do more with less, it makes a lot of sense,” Public Works Director Jack LaRochelle said.
The program automatically generates work orders related to the assets. For example, once a water valve is mapped, the program can alert crews on the days it needs to be exercised.
The initial investments in the program would cover the cost of mapping the assets. Ongoing allocations would be required thereafter to keep the information up to date.
The program would require General Fund contributions of $23,500 and $85,000 in the next two years along with a combined $60,000 from other revenue sources.
The city also plans to spend nearly a half million dollars over the next two budget years to bring Napa’s stormwater system into compliance with new treatment mandates that go into effect July 1.
At the request of the Napa Valley Community Foundation, the city is expected to spend $75,000 over the next three budgets to help legal immigrants become U.S. citizens. In April, the foundation announced it would spend $1 million on this effort throughout the county and Parness said it is requesting cities within Napa County also contribute.
Beginning in the 2014-15 year, the city may allocate $25,000 to keep the Napa Art Walk program going. The program, which brings temporary art displays to downtown Napa every two years, was initially funded by the Napa Community Redevelopment Agency, which the state dissolved last year. The upcoming show is being funded through donations.
The five-year Capital Improvement Plan that is part of the proposed budget includes a number of projects totaling $22.8 million over the next two years. Of that, $6.4 million comes from the General Fund. The projects that are part of the plan span for pages in the budget, but include big items like design and construction of the Browns Valley fire station, extension of Linda Vista Avenue over Napa Creek, sidewalk paving and the initial phases of the First and Second streets roundabouts at California Boulevard.
“It’s great to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Mayor Jill Techel said in regard to Fire Station No. 5 being part of the upcoming budgets.
Parness said the city is planning to open the station, which will be at the corner of Browns Valley Road and Laurel Avenue, in 2016.
“I’m feeling really comfortable now that there will be resources to build it and man it within the time frame we talked about,” Parness said. “It’s encouraging.”
Councilman Alfredo Pedroza, who along with Councilman Scott Sedgley is going through the city budgeting process for the first time, thanked staff for their work and his colleagues and predecessors for helping the city into a positive operating position.
“It’s just such a great opportunity to be on council at this time, knowing the previous council made some tough decisions in the prior years,” Pedroza said. “Thanks to everyone for putting the city in this position, it’s really great to be able to serve at this time.”
The council is scheduled to resume budget discussions during a public hearing June 4. A second public hearing is scheduled for June 18 when the council is expected to approve budgets for the next two years.