Norwalk passes $219M two-year budget

Photo courtesy city of Norwalk

Photo courtesy city of Norwalk

NORWALK – Norwalk City Council members on Tuesday unanimously adopted a two-year spending plan that includes more than $650,000 for park renovations and another $802,500 in capital improvement projects.

The balanced budget plan covers the period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017, and totals a combined $219.68 million. 

Officials prepared the budget on the assumption that Norwalk's General Fund revenue will improve 2% year to year thanks to an improving economy and growing sales and tax revenue. City officials also forecasted additional money hitting city coffers as a result of rising property taxes and the Utility Users Tax, which Norwalk residents voted to modernize last year. 

Set aside in the budget is $774,264 to replace aging city equipment, including 10 city vehicles (nine of which are replacements), four transit buses, and two Dial-a-Ride buses. 

There is also $802,500 available for various capital projects, such as redesigning the senior center parking lot, improving ADA accessibility at City Hall, installing a security system at City Hall; replacing storm drains; improving park lighting; and upgrading city parking lots with slurry seal. 

Another $652,655 is budgeted for beautification projects at New River, Robert White and Lakeside parks. The work will include updates to the parks' restrooms, fields, lighting and buildings. 

Officials project spending $500,000 to install automated payment kiosks in the civic center parking structure and the City Hall parking lot. The budget includes three new full-time positions, one each in the Social Services, Community Development and Recreation departments. 

Like many cities, however, Norwalk is grappling with inflating pension costs that will grow more costly in the next several years. 

"Due to the changes in CalPERS demographic assumptions and changes in a smoothing amortization policy retirement cost, the City's rate is estimated to increase by 8.933%" over the next six fiscal years, finance director Jana Stuard wrote in a report to council members. 
Norwalk also faces a 2% increase in personnel costs over the next two years. In dollars, that equates to more than $1.1 million. 

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department's contract with Norwalk increases $451,999 next year, and an additional $325,274 in 2017. 

There is also an anticipated $178,900 bump in parks and facilities maintenance costs, and a 3% increase in electricity, gas, water and sewer utilities. 

"The proposed budget represents the City's financial plan for the upcoming two fiscal years," Stuard's report reads. "It maintains service levels from the Base Year and continues the beautification and improvement of City parks; repair and maintenance of facilities city-wide; network and technology upgrades; and the replacement of equipment and vehicles. 

"City Council has made every effort to reduce costs without jeopardizing overall services and worked to ensure that adequate reserves are maintained to better manage future economic downturns, to respond to extreme events and unexpected demands in services."

The budget can be read in full on the city's website.