We Are In Great Shape, But…
At the end of this fiscal year, Foster City is projected to be in its best financial health ever. We are debt free, have a projected $20,000,000 reserve and have avoided the round after round of cuts that just about all of the cities around us have been going through. However, it is in this most rare of environments that continued diligence is even more important.
Our state and federal government seem to work at the budgeting process backwards. In good times they figure out how much money they have and then find ways to spend every penny. In bad times they beg, borrow and steal to get the money they started spending in the good times but no longer have available. It seems that the idea of saving for a rainy day has never occurred to them. Unfortunately for us, it is raining pretty hard right now.
Foster City is not immune from today’s economic times. We have, however, managed to save for a rainy day and now that the rainy day is here, we must be even more diligent. We must make certain that we do not let this rainy day become the end of days by following in the footsteps of other governments and refusing to make cuts when cuts are needed.
For the first time since the passage of Prop 13, your property tax will go down next year. That is great news for California property owners, including a large percentage of Foster City residents. However, that is also bad news for cities, like Foster City, because it means that revenues will be less and so there will be less to spend on services and programs. In addition to property taxes, transient occupancy taxes (hotel taxes) are down due to less travel. Sales taxes are down due to less buying. Development fees are down due to less construction and remodeling. And all of this is now impacting us.
What I believe that means for Foster City, is that the time to start making cuts is today.
Saying it is time to cut is easy, actually cutting is quite hard. There are some services that Foster City offers that many cities would consider a luxury. It seems easy to cut those programs. But cutting programs may mean cutting jobs and putting people out of work. Cutting programs may mean eliminating services that some of Foster City’s residents have come to rely upon, to the extent that, for some, it makes the difference between making it and not making it financially. Cutting programs means a change in lifestyle for all. Maybe not a large change, but a change nonetheless, perhaps starting as small as really understanding that we are not immune from today’s economic problems. That even Foster City has some belt tightening to do.
That, as they say, is why we get the big bucks. I ran for City Council because I wanted to and felt qualified to be making difficult decisions in difficult economic times. Decisions that, while hard to make and even harder to see the impact, are necessary for the greater good of all of Foster City. The easy thing would be to wait, after all we have reserves, and see what the future brings. I think that would be a very big mistake. Our job should be to plan for the worst and hope for the best, so if we see the worst, we are prepared.
We are coming to the end of our budget review process and will be looking at staff recommendations for the final 2010-2011 budget in May. I do not expect that we will be looking at the kind of issues that other cities are facing with having to lay off police, fire and other essential services, but we will need to start looking at cuts and not just minor cuts, but cuts that will have some impact on our residents. That, however, is what you elected us to do and what I hope that we will not fail to do, regardless of how hard it may be.
Participate in the process. Come to our May meetings, they are now at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays. Send me an email at email@example.com or call me at (650) 286-3504.
May 05, 2010
We Are In Great Shape, But…
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