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Letter to the editor: City budget is all about priorities

The Encinitas City Council has begun one of its most important annual tasks, drafting the city’s annual budget.

The Mayor and I both voted against increasing taxes because we believe that, as with your budget at home, our city must live within its means and exercise fiscal restraints. Just like at home, there are always more wants than dollars available.

As a city, we want to be sure to fund core services our citizens care about, along with various capital improvements and special projects identified in advance, which requires our staff to focus and identify on the needed resources to meet our stated goals. The next step in the planning process is connecting the prioritized spending plan to the annual budget. Done correctly, the budget will meet community expectations and needs while creating long-term financial health for the city. Ideally, the budget should reflect the city’s priorities.

The city has determined its financial capacity for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) for the next six years to be $41 million. Staff proposed a CIP list that identified high-priority projects. If the council agrees with this list, that will leave an unassigned fund balance available for new capital projects at $500,000 for the next six years, which is not much, unless something is removed from the CIP list and reallocated to a new project.

The $19.6 million debt for the recently purchased Pacific View property/Live Museum (property only) has challenged the council in determining or prioritizing the remaining project needs. Certainly, a museum can bring plenty of positive benefits, but we have to weigh its additional cost against other priority spending needs for our city, such as improved streets, city facilities and infrastructure, sand for beaches, open space, trails, public safety, wayside horns, stabilization of our beaches, safe routes to schools, etc.

Our city leaders, staff, and community have invested a great deal of time and energy into a strategic planning process that identifies short- and long-term opportunities and challenges. The best and more valued projects will surface to the top. These choices should be based on a set of guiding criteria, such as: legal mandate, risk mitigation, effects on public health and safety, improvements to efficiency of core services, and most important — a broad public benefit.

Please participate by letting the council know what is important to you!

Mark Muir, Encinitas Council member


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