City delivers balanced budget

Not dipping into reserves for the first time in three years, the Sonoma City Council approved a balanced budget Monday of $12,936,065.

The document states that revenue from the increase in the city sales tax, under Measure J, will generally offset the loss of redevelopment funds.

Additionally, after a few years of declining and flat revenues, the city’s General Fund revenues have begun to turn around.

Sales tax was about seven percent higher, and the hotel room tax reflected an increase of nine percent over the same period in 2011. Business license revenue increased 11 percent, and construction related revenues were up some 47 percent. Property Tax showed a slight increase over the prior year of approximately one percent.

This positive trend would have kept the City on a course of recovery were it not for the loss of redevelopment funds, said City Manager Linda Kelly.

On the expense side of the ledger, austerity measures begun in 2008 are still in effect. The city has eliminated and/or deferred staff wage increases, left vacancies unfilled, cross-staffed for greater efficiencies, reduced staff training, instituted pension cost sharing, and implemented purchasing reductions in supplies and services throughout all departments.

“Reducing expenses and seeking efficiencies by all possible means became the new normal,” Kelly said.

One significant cut is to street maintenance and repair. Previously funded at about $800,00 per year, that line item has been reduced to $200,000.

The new budget maintains city support of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley ($51,040); the Sonoma Community Center ($26,400); the Sonoma Ecology Center ($19,360); and Vintage House ($26,400.)

Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Sonoma Overnight Support and the Economic Development Program will also continue to receive city support.

It balancing the budget, the city did not have to draw on reserve funds, as had been required in the last budget ($50k) and that of two years ago ($234k).

That leaves nearly $2.1 million in emergency reserves, $1.5 million in operating reserves and $900,000 in the special projects fund,


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