What a Week: City of Pleasanton Budget Takeout | News


Yours truly was back on the beat last week, filling in to cover the Pleasanton Town Council meeting, as well as other temporary duties, amid two vacancies on our staff.

I was reporting from home – although council and staff are meeting in person again in town halls – listening to live video through headphones trying while trying to drown a fussy baby in the other piece (a bit like during writes this column…)

Although dominated by the district map vote, the March 1st session included another very important element for the future of the city, both short and long term: the mid-term budget update for the 2021-22 financial year. Basically, a summary of revenue and expense estimates based on the first half of the year and projections through June 2022.

“What I heard today was confidence in our budget, confidence in the recovery and confidence in the town of Pleasanton,” Mayor Karla Brown said after the 35-minute budget discussion.

That’s clearly the title. The city budget is in excellent shape so far, to the point that council passed adjustments recommended by city staff which included spending for a projected general fund surplus of $5,362,549.

All of this money has been allocated to capital improvement program (CIP) reserves, with a particular eye on high-cost projects in the queue, such as the all-abilities playground, skate park and improvements to West Las Positas Boulevard.

The surplus includes about $2.5 million in higher-than-estimated sales tax revenue, driven by purchases of consumer goods and at restaurants, hotels and gas stations — oh, and higher prices at the box. Taxes on business licenses ($700,000) and documentary transfers ($400,000) are also generating more revenue than expected.

Transient occupancy tax and recreation fees remain low, nearly half of what they generated in fiscal year 2019, but the city budgeted accordingly with lower revenue estimates last June.

Overall, there is approximately $4.8 million in increased general fund revenue, and when combined with the use of certain COVID contingency funds and $313,699 less in expenses ( primarily due to lower personnel costs due to employee attrition), the result is an estimated surplus of $5.4 million.

The decrease in expenses is the difference between nearly $1.3 million less in labor costs, primarily due to employee attrition, but approximately $966,000 more in non-salary costs such as training, transportation, repairs, and materials (including rising gas and electric prices, and an additional $150,000 for employee COVID testing).

General fund revenues are now estimated at just under $136.5 million for 2021-22. The fund’s reserve is expected to reach nearly $33.8 million, or 26% of operating expenses (well within city policy calling for 20%-30%), by the end of the year.

Going forward, the city expects to have to use $4.4 million of its $7.4 million “rainy day fund” to balance future budgets for 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025- 26. But beyond this year, the city could have projected annual contributions lower than CalPERS due to recent high returns from the statewide pension system, creating a potential general fund surplus from 2026-27 to 2030-31. “Could” being the key word with such projections.

Here are some takeaways from other city-run funds:

* The water fund is expected to have approximately $3.2 million less revenue than expected due to drought conservation, but this is somewhat offset by a decrease of $1.9 million on the utility side. expenses for the reduction of water purchase costs of zone 7.

* On that front, look for a board discussion next week on drought rates for water customers.

* For the sewer fund, revenue is also down (attributed in part to lower usage in office buildings), but this is also accompanied by a decrease in expenses related to DSRSD charges. The city had to buy a $255,000 vacuum truck.

* The Golf Fund, linked to the operation of the Callippe Preserve Golf Course, is in good shape as revenues are estimated at $400,006 due to increased rounds of golf and sales at the facility. The net surplus is expected to be $208,006 taking into account certain increased expenses. City staff plan to return at the end of the year with a plan for a payment this year from the Golf Fund to the General Fund in repayment of the original loan when the facility was built.

* The cemetery fund should show a net surplus of $21,924.

* Repair and replacement funds have a net increase on the expense side of $656,489, primarily due to higher than expected material and contract costs.

The presentation of the budget had a bittersweet tone. This was CFO Tina Olson’s last board meeting. Her last day on the job was this Wednesday as she assumes the position of Director of Administrative Services for the Town of Livermore.

Council members and acting city manager Brian Dolan congratulated Olson on his seven years of service and wished him the best. The mayor also dropped a quip while laughing: “So, reconsider, will you?”

It’s not the first time – by far – in my years covering boardrooms, including Pleasanton, that an official has said something like this from the podium to an employee who is leaving during a meeting. public, intending to be complimentary while speaking with the tongue. play. I have always found it shocking. Leaving a job is a deeply personal and often difficult decision. The joke never really lands and just seems awkward to an unsuspecting audience. In my opinion, anyway.

I don’t want to blast any particular board member for last week’s comment (although they all laughed at it) because that’s just the most recent example of a problem I’ve had seen and heard so many times before. I just hope all elected officials choose their public jokes more carefully in the future.

The city will soon begin hiring a new chief financial officer, and current staff will fill the interim duties until a permanent hire is made, according to deputy city manager Pam Ott.

Ott also confirmed that Debra Gill, the city’s director of human resources and labor relations, is retiring April 15 after 22 years of service to spend more time with her recently retired husband and family. The application period for the position of Director of Human Resources closes on Friday.

And of course, the board and consultants continue to search for the next permanent chief executive following Nelson Fialho’s departure at the end of November.

The town of Pleasanton seems to be in the throes of a key hiring season, just like us. And judging by the signs around town and the ads online, it’s clear we’re not alone.

Editor’s note: Jeremy Walsh has been editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017.

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