Thanks to an improving economy, local governments are faring better these days after a rough few years of budget cutting.
Representatives from the city of Mountain View and Santa Clara County brought an optimistic outlook to the Feb. 26 “State of the City/County” luncheon sponsored by Chamber of Commerce Mountain View and Yipee. El Camino Hospital hosted the event, held at NASA Ames Conference Center.
Mayor Chris Clark outlined city goals that included improving bicycle and pedestrian mobility and retaining or improving the city’s green space and canopy. Another goal was using current technologies to improve the city’s customer service.
City Manager Dan Rich read a list of city projects underway or scheduled in the near future, including revamping fields at McKelvey Park, creating a Shoreline sports complex and opening a new teen center, currently under construction and slated to debut in the fall.
Rich said fiscal year 2012-2013 was the first time in five years the city did not have to make cuts to balance the budget. The city has a total budget of $241.3 million and a $98.1 million general operating budget, according to Rich. Property taxes account for 31 percent of the general fund, and sales tax for 18 percent. Police and fire combined account for 51 percent of the budget.
“We expect to finish the year with a $3 million surplus,” Rich said.
The city’s projections for the 2014-2015 fiscal year show revenues and expenditures up 3.7 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, and a surplus of $1.4 million. Rich noted “clouds on the horizon” with changes to pension funding in two years.
With 77 commercial projects wending through the city’s public approval process, Clark observed, “It’s pretty spectacular to see how the economy has turned around so quickly.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian noted that he was “really delighted to be back” as the District 5 representative for Mountain View and Los Altos. Simitian previously served as supervisor from 1997 to 2000, before his election to the State Assembly.
The county has jurisdiction over a diverse array of responsibilities, he said, from maintaining the expressways and regulation of gas at service stations to health care, libraries, the District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s offices, and the county jail. By the numbers, the county’s Valley Medical Center treats 250,000 patients per year, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes 40,000 cases annually and the county jail population currently stands at 4,000.
One major concern is the cost attached to unfunded pension liability. Simitian reported the number at $70 million when he left the county in 2000. When he returned in 2012, it had risen to $1.8 billion – a 2,500 percent increase.
Despite the looming pension problem, Simitian indicated that the county is doing better than in recent years. The county last week opened a new social services center in Mountain View.
“Mountain View is a prosperous community that still has great pockets of need,” he said. “County government is the social-services safety net.”