Council upbeat at budget discussion

DOWNEY - Except for a few questions about overtime costs (justified by the Fire Department in its case for vital training and physical conditioning of its manpower) and the potential safety problem posed by inadequate staffing at at least one of the city's parks (both cases to be further reviewed), the $148.7 million 2009-10 city budget submitted Tuesday by city manager Gerald Caton to the City Council for study really raised no eyebrows.The tone and direction of the discussions were for the most part straightforward. Revenue concerns, for instance (construction permit fees; plan check fees; sales tax revenue; business registration, etc., were all down last year) as well as fiscal uncertainty concerns (state faces massive deficit-some $21 billion; local property taxes - in the amount of $2 million - may be borrowed by the state; economic recovery may be slow; auto dealership closures; decrease in property taxes, etc.) are counterbalanced by the city's actual and projected strengths (a 'respectable' fund reserve-in the order of $50 million-with which to endure the economic downturn; federal stimulus funds and grants, amounting to $15.7 million; $45.8 million in capital projects; Tierra Luna/Downey Studios potential, etc.). Perusal of the delayed supplemental 'budget reductions list' prompted one or two individuals from the floor to appeal for the restoration of funding for their favored program (Downey Rose Float Association's Kelley Roberts was one) but otherwise Councilman Roger Brossmer quieted them down by pointing out that the list indeed imposed draconian cuts, but all they represented was a worst-case scenario, and the cuts were unlikely to be carried out. The mood of the budget study was thus upbeat, and everybody seemed in agreement that Downey is well-prepared to, in the words of Caton, "weather the economic storm." That said, the proposed $148.7 million budget breaks down into nearly $101.5 million for city operations (with Police and Fire, as expected, accounting for about 70 percent) and almost $47.3 for capital expenditures. There is an overall 7.5 percent increase (about $10.4 million) over last year's figure, primarily attributable, Caton wrote in his letter of transmittal to the Council, to capital projects to be funded from Downey's expected share of the federally-allocated economic stimulus package, plus additional transportation grants. From the funds perspective, the proposed 2009-10 budget shows General Fund money of $68.8 million down slightly from last year's $68.9 million. This is offset by significant increases in next fiscal year's Enterprise and Special Funds. The proposed budget will be revisited with a public hearing at the City Council meeting on June 23. Its adoption, with perhaps just minor ramifications, is anticipated then. Meanwhile, the next regular public meeting of the City Council will be at 7:30 p.m. this Tuesday, June 9, at City Hall.

********** Published: June 5, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 7

Eric Pierce