Council approves $8.7M budget
by Chris Wilson
The Ojai City Council and Redevelopment Agency put in extra
hours Tuesday evening, acting on matters of mounting litigation,
awarding contracts, discussing a public art ordinance and approving
new budgets in two separate meetings that spanned more than five
Aware of potential local revenue shortfalls in the coming fiscal
year, and breathing a collective sigh of relief to have finished
the 2001-02 fiscal year in the black, the council approved a
projected $8.4 million total budget and, excluding Redevelopment,
projected expenditures of about $8.7 million in the year ahead.
In addition to the General Fund, which is expected to see revenues
and spending in the $5.8 million range, the total budget also
contains a number of special funds for specific spending purposes.
In an effort to balance a $40,000 gap in the General Fund budget,
the council held a workshop recently to make decision about what
to cut. They cut spending to public works, reduced support to
the Visitors Bureau and deferred filling vacant maintenance worker
and planning positions until later in the fiscal year.
Despite concerns that California's $24 billion budget gap could
adversely affect with drastic cuts to municipalities, in May
Gov. Gray Davis submitted a revised budget to the state legislature,
which keeps many of the programs and services in place for Ojai
and other cities, City Manager Dan Singer said. Funding for the
Redevelopment Agency, $100,000 in COPS funding for local police
services and other fees that had been shifted out of the state
budget by Davis have now been put back in place, according to
a report from the League of California Cities, Singer noted.
"Nevertheless, the state has yet to approve a final budget
and further adjustments are still possible, if not likely,"
Awaiting the state's final budget leaves certain police services,
such as a D.A.R.E. officer and the traffic enforcement motorcycle
officer hanging in the state's balances. Police services contracted
through the Ventura County Sheriff's Department are estimated
at $1.94 million and is the single biggest expenditure for the
But even though the local and county economies suffered briefly
after the Sept. 11 attacks, most of Ventura County recovered
quickly and continues to be one of the strongest economies in
the state, Singer said.
"Employment remains strong, consumer spending remains healthy,
and the real estate market continues to boom," Singer said.
All this should contribute to a steady stream of property tax
revenue, which has increased and was up 8 percent this past year.
Improved sales tax and money from tourism are also projected
to help fill the local coffers. But serious challenges also loom,
Singer told the council.
Whether or not the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa see approval for
its expansion project, impacts of between $400,000 and $600,000
are expected from lost City Transient Occupancy Tax and sales
tax revenue. In anticipation of the coming expansion, the Inn
has reportedly ceased booking corporate functions after January
2003 when construction would begin if the project were approved.
These corporate functions contribute largely to the city's revenue
in the form of the bed and sales taxes.
Overall, the budget appears to be sound, Singer stated.
"For the most part, our fund balances are good and our reserves
remain stable," Singer said. "Ojai remains increasingly
dependent on support and taxes from our own local economy, especially
through revenues from visitors. Given this situation, it seems
that the City should continue to emphasized economic development
activities, consistent with our land use policies and support
for Ojai's visitors through Visitor Bureau activities and consideration
of the Ojai Valley Inn expansion."
All told, the council approved the budget unanimously and awarded
an across the board 2 percent cost of living raise for employees
of the City.
In other news the council again considered a draft ordinance
that would require certain new development projects to include
public art as part of the new construction or remodeling. Projects
subject to the program would include new residential development
of more than four units, reconstruction or new commercial, industrial
and institutional buildings of more than $300,000. The ordinance,
if approved, would establish a public art fund and require the
placement of public art on the site of the new project on a percentage
of the cost of development. The new draft ordinance has come
before the council in different forms several times in the past
two decades. It will be reviewed again by staff and referred
to the Planning Commission for review before returning to the
council for a first reading and further public hearings.
Finally a contract of $91,471.50 was awarded to Berry General
Engineering of Oxnard for the construction of sidewalks, street
improvements and parking spaces for Cluff Vista Park. City engineer
Glenn Hawks, sitting in for an absent public works director,
noted that Berry is the company who also installed the fabled
bulbout planters along North Montgomery Street, which were recently
"I hope this project meets with better public approval,"
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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