The Los Altos City Council took the following actions at its Feb. 11 meeting.
Midyear budget report shows positive signs
The city council’s midyear budget review last week revealed that the city remains well within its budget during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Overall, the report stated that Los Altos is projected to see a “really healthy surplus,” according to Finance and Technology Director Russ Morreale, ranging from approximately $1.5 million to slightly more than $3 million.
Morreale noted that the city’s key General Fund revenues are trending at 1-3 percent growth, while department expenses are approximately 8 percent lower than expected at the midway point. Another positive trend, according to Morreale, is what he termed as a “banner year” for property taxes – the city’s largest revenue source – currently up 9.3 percent. Other funds trending higher include the city’s hotel tax (11 percent increase) and planning and building tax revenues (up 15 percent). Sales-tax revenue remains within budget projections as well, he added.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Morreale said of the property-tax bump, while noting that other revenue sources such as real estate transfer taxes and franchise fees are down. “But I would add that from a projection standpoint, I didn’t project 9.3 percent – and wouldn’t have, either.”
Still, Morreale said the city must remain cautious about potential future economic challenges, including anticipated California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) pension rate increases and other benefits costs, as well as rising maintenance costs related to its aging civic facilities.
As a result of the city’s overall positive financial outlook for the year, Morreale said the council “pulled the relief valve a bit” by unanimously approving a request to fund three of the city’s 12 deferred positions – two maintenance positions and one recreation position. The three positions, according to Morreale, total $282,000 in combined salaries and benefits over a full year.
The council also unanimously approved the use of excess reserves from fiscal year 2012-2013 to transfer an additional $1.7 million to a handful of funds, including a $500,000 shift to the city’s Operating Fiscal Reserve. Other approved transfers included $450,000 to establish a CalPERS pension reserve fund in anticipation of future rate increases, $750,000 to the Community Renewal fund earmarked for future facility upgrades and nearly $339,000 into a workers’ compensation internal service fund.
As part of its approval, the council granted equipment requests for the city’s police, maintenance, and finance and technology departments totaling $164,000.
Preschool facility vote bumped to Feb. 25
The council voted unanimously to continue discussion of a use permit and design review for a preschool and early-education facility seeking to relocate to the grounds of a nearby church. The council is now slated to review and vote on the item at its Feb. 25 meeting.
The Mountain View Los Altos Parent Education Program is seeking council approval to relocate from the Mountain View High School campus to the Foothill Covenant Church property, located at 1555 Oak Ave. The plan would require the construction of three portable classrooms and two playgrounds on a vacant lot next to the church.
The item was originally placed on the council’s Feb. 11 agenda after the Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission in January voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval for the move.