Foster City 2013 and Beyond
As we move into 2013, we come to the planning stage of the third year of our three-year plan to balance the City’s budget. Our first budget study session was held at the end of January and there will be more as we get into March and beyond. When we adopted the plan three years ago our budget deficit was about $5 million out of a general fund budget of about $30 million. We reduced the deficit each year and now look to have a balanced budget for the 2013 – 2014 fiscal year.
We have been solving this problem in a variety of ways and with the partnership and help of the City’s employees, residents and businesses. We were able to achieve most of our savings without having layoffs or cuts by eliminating vacant positions and through normal attrition such as retirement. Our labor unions worked with us as partners. Police and Fire have agreed to stand stills on compensation and worked with us, before the State took action, to lower future pension obligations, giving Foster City a much better long term fiscal future. Our management group waived compensation increases and helped to substantially reduce expenses. They have truly been partners in our success and I know that they will continue to do so.
We also took a leadership role, working with other cities in adopting shared services models. Our fire department, now working jointly with two other cities, is a model of how this can be done, but they were not alone. Our Parks and Recreation Department also took steps to reduce overhead by partnering with San Mateo on recreation programs that are now consolidated, resulting in much lower overhead cost to the City. As we move forward, we will continue to explore shared services in other areas.
What is most amazing about all this is that we did this while also losing a significant number of our department heads, mostly through retirement. In this period we have had a new Assistant City Manager, two new Fire Chiefs, a new Police Chief, a new Community Development Director, a new Human Resources Director, a new Financial Services Director and a new Public Works Director. We have managed to substantially improve our fiscal condition and continue to provide all of the key services to our residents and businesses while making these transitions. None of this could have been done without the excellent leadership of our City Manager Jim Hardy, and we all owe him a vote of thanks.
Things are going well in Foster City, but we are not out of the woods yet. For example, we have $21+ million in underfunded pension liabilities that will be coming up for discussion at a Council meeting in March. The fortunate part is that we are continuing to work proactively to make sure that we continue to grow and flourish. Just a few months ago we passed Foster City’s first ever economic development plan and you will see some of the projects that come out of that as we go through 2013. We have worked hard on bettering the City’s relationships with our Chamber of Commerce and our businesses and have taken great steps to work with them as partners. The same is true of the many HOAs in our City.
We have worked hand in hand with the San Mateo-Foster City School District, holding our first ever joint-session last year and now working with them to help solve their overcrowding problem. We understand that our City has great schools and we will continue to work with the District to keep it that way. We have also worked with various resident groups to improve and maintain our parks and other facilities. It has truly been a group effort.
Your current and prior City Council members have worked hard to make sure that Foster City continues to be the “Paradise on Earth” that we all know and love. We have not done it alone; we have had the great help of you, our residents, businesses, and City employees. We know that you will continue to help as we move forward and we want to thank you for all you have done and all that you will do to support our efforts in keeping the amazing community of Foster City alive and thriving long into the future.
Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
February 13, 2013
Foster City 2013 and Beyond