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Los Altos Hills aims to be debt-free


Photo By: Image Courtesy of Town of Los ALtos Hills
Photo Image Courtesy Of Town Of Los Altos Hills

An illustration from the town of Los Altos Hills shows how only 6 cents from every dollar in property taxes ends up in city coffers.

The Los Altos Hills City Council Thursday approved an $11.4 million operating budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that may clear the town of outstanding debt.

The prospect of fiscal health follows four years of expenditures on capital improvement projects, substantial loan repayments for renovation projects and repayments to the state for unused Roadway Impact Fees.

The town still owes $113,000 to the California Energy Commission for loans used to fund energy efficiency measures.

“Paying off these loans will be a major, one-time expenditure that will improve the town’s overall financial condition and make it debt-free,” wrote City Manager Carl Cahill in a letter to the council.

Following Cahill’s revelation last week that additional roadway funds may be needed in the next year, the council agreed to reconsider whether paying the loans off outright made sense. Although the town expects a $163,000 surplus in its general fund at the end of the fiscal year, councilmembers don’t want to get stuck in a pinch.

“The budget is a plan,” Los Altos Hills Mayor Gary Waldeck said. “Plans change.”

To ensure that Los Altos Hills replenishes its coffers for the future, the town plans to spend 2.8 percent less than it did last year. Cost-cutting measures include eliminating two staff positions and asking each department to cut its budget by 2 percent. The town also intends to trim expenses by decreasing postemployment benefits for staff, discontinuing the sewer connection incentive program, postponing the hiring of a barn manager at Westwind Community Barn and reducing funds for planning consultants and tree removal.

The greatest expenditures in the 2013-2014 budget include $778,200 for Sewer Treatment Plant operations and $488,000 for sewer capital projects – estimated to run 11 percent higher this year than last. Los Altos Hills also plans to allocate $80,000 to hire professionals to complete a state-mandated 2014-2022 housing element update, $50,000 for engineering consultation for Barron Creek and $50,000 for open-space management.

Property taxes – the town’s largest source of revenue at 43 percent – are projected to increase $50,812, or 1.2 percent, in the next fiscal year. Revenue from all other taxes is forecast to decrease $66,900, or 12.7 percent, a result of reduced business-license activity and property transfers.

For a copy of the operating and capital budgets, click “Agenda” for the June 20 council meeting at losaltoshills.ca.gov/city-government/city-council/reports.

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