I often run into Foster City residents who ask, “what kind of shape is the City in?” I read into their body language and tone of voice that their question is one of more than just idle conversation. So I am going to address some of the major issues here for all you interested readers.
The single most important issue that will be affecting the majority of Foster City residents is the budget. Last fall it became known to the City Council that our two major sources of revenue (property tax and sales tax) were noticeably down and these two tax revenues would continue to be suppressed for a prolonged period of time. As a result, this was serious enough that the City Council began to proactively work on the upcoming 2011-12 budget which was several months earlier than normal.
We expect to end the current fiscal year with an approximate $3.5 million deficit. The City Council has directed staff to propose a plan to achieve a balanced budget by fiscal year 2013-14 and so far that seems doable and would leave us with a General Fund reserve of approximately $15.8 million.
It is no secret that when revenues are down expenses must be reduced accordingly. The City should expect some belt tightening with some services being reduced or eliminated. However, emergency services and infrastructure maintenance are and will continue to remain a high priority. Our Police and Fire response times are among the best which is expected to continue. If you find a pothole in any of our streets, it is the result of it not being reported. Clean water is delivered and wastewater is disposed and treated. You will find green grass in our parks.
As much as I find beating on a dead horse a waste of time and energy, I feel compelled to continue to do so when it comes to the topic of the state financial situation. The state lawmakers continue with their indecisive approach regarding any curtailment of spending. They believe that their self–inflicted financial woes can be cured by tax increases.
There is a relatively new term floating about these days—realignment. Realignment is being used by the state and can be interpreted as follows: a service that was once provided by the local municipalities, then the state felt it could do it better, then the state finds out it is unable to do it better, and now the state wants to return the responsibility (mess) back to the locals. Those of us representing over 450 cities in the State as well as those representing the 58 counties are faced with developing a balanced budget each year or drawing on reserves to make it balance. This is not unlike what most households do. Why is it that those in state government feel exempt from the process? We at the local level can only wait on what the state does and react accordingly. Perhaps those at the state level might want to reread Proposition 1A and 22 to refresh their memories.
Should you happen to drive by the Pilgrim-Triton area, you will notice that demolition on the Phase I portion has been completed and construction will begin shortly. This will bring an upgraded appearance and introduce a new synergy to a portion of the city that has shown signs of wear.
The City has issued a letter to the development community announcing that the City would be issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). A short list of development firms who responded to the RFQ has been prepared to which a Request for Proposals (RFP) will be sent.
When I meet with council members of other San Mateo County Cities, they are envious of our city, our lagoons, our parks, and most of all, our financial situation. Make no mistake, we are experiencing some financially troubling and challenging times. How are we doing? We are in sound financial shape. Compared to our neighboring cities, we are in very good shape.
I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at email@example.com.