The Downey City Council on Tuesday is poised to consider a $169.1 million spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18, representing a 4.8% increase over last year’s budget.
The budget increase can be mostly attributed to Measure S, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Downey voters last November. Revenue generated by Measure S will be used to bolster public safety goals and fix local infrastructure.
“Ten new police officers, funded by the Measure S local sales tax increase, will be added to the city’s public safety workforce,” city manager Gilbert Livas wrote in the budget proposal. “And Measure S will also provide for a complete overhaul of the city’s 50-plus-year-old fire stations and a master planning process for the 60-year-old library building.”
The spending plan proposes the creation of several new positions related to Measure S, including six ambulance coordinators; one ambulance operator coordinator; one fire training captain; one public safety dispatcher; one public safety system network engineer; two parking enforcement officers; one human resources specialist; and one finance department management analyst.
Measure S notwithstanding, city officials are anticipating continued gains in property and sales taxes, citing strengthening sales at the Promenade and Downey Landing retail centers, and the recent openings of commercial complexes at Lakewood Boulevard and Gallatin Road. More than 130 new businesses opened in Downey during the calendar year 2016.
The budget proposal also revealed that Kaiser Permanente intends to build a new six-story hospital tower with an additional 96 hospital beds -- along with a new parking structure -- adjacent to its Downey hospital, which opened in 2009.
Meanwhile, Downey real estate values continue to rise and officials expect rents for multi-family residential units and commercial space “to remain strong.”
“The strong Southern California mid-luxury multifamily housing construction trends continue through Downey,” wrote Livas, noting the construction of a 28-unit townhome development on 3rd Street; a proposal to build six new apartments at a vacant lot on 2nd Street; the construction of 39 townhomes at Telegraph Road and Tweedy Lane; and a proposal for a three-story, 24-unit condominium project on Firestone Boulevard, near the intersection of Stewart and Gray Road.
“Property tax revenues are estimated to increase slowly as property values continue their measured upward trajectory,” Livas wrote.
While the budget proposal is mainly optimistic, there are also significant financial obstacles, notably an increased $1.5 million annual obligation to CalPERS, the public employee retirement system.
“[The] city’s financial obligations have increased $1.5 million without adding a single new program, piece of equipment or position,” Livas said.
Also, even with the approval of Measure S, there is the issue of how to fund $16 million in necessary road repairs, a question “not easily answered without courageous and difficult decisions from local, regional and state elected officials,” wrote Livas.
Another challenge is a looming exodus of experienced police officers. The department expects
to lose 30 percent of its officers over the next five years due to retirement, said Councilman Rick Rodriguez.
Council members will discuss the budget proposal Tuesday at 4 p.m. inside council chambers. The spending plan is expected to be formally adopted at the June 27 regular council meeting.