Arts center subsidy could be cut to balance Escondido 2022-23 budget

Escondido city officials will use a series of accounting changes, spending cuts and one-time funding sources to cover a $ 8.5 million shortfall in the municipal budget for the fiscal year starting July 1st.

Forecasts provided by city staff show that the city faces red paint of $ 3 million to $ 12 million a year over the next 18 years. While the City Council faced balancing its 2022-2023 budget last week, the city is also considering a voting measure that requires voters to raise the city’s sales tax rate to deal with future deficits.

Following the discussion, the council voted 5-0 to balance the $ 122 million operating budget with a one-time infusion of $ 5 million from two sources: a reserve fund for future pension liabilities and a $ 38 million allocation portion. of Escondido by the US federal. Rescue Plan Act.

Mayor Paul McNamara lobbied unsuccessfully to his colleagues to make up for the entire budget shortfall this year with funds from the city’s reserves and other one-time sources.

“If we are going to maintain a city that attracts people to live here, raise children and bring in businesses, we need to maintain these services,” McNamara said.

But council members Mike Morasco and Joe Garcia said they were willing to spend up to $ 5 million from lump sums of reserves and money to close the budget hole and direct city staff to close the rest of the gap with budget cuts. and accounting maneuvers.

For example, between the last budget discussion on May 11 and this week, staff increased their revenue projections from property sales and taxes by a total of $ 1.4 million, helping to cover part of the gap. The city also expects to save $ 1 million by leaving vacancies unfilled for at least part of next fiscal year.

Cuts were also proposed for a reserve fund to replace city vehicles, staff in the Department of Public Works, and a $ 1.9 million cut in the city’s annual subsidy for the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

Morasco said that instead of debating whether to cut or save individual items, the council should determine how much it will spend from reserves and funding once and allow city staff to do the rest.

“City management and department heads can take in $ 4.83 million (later raised to $ 5 million) and decide where those funds can be allocated and we will call it one day,” Morasco said.

Among members of the public who spoke or emailed the council Wednesday, some urged the council to legalize cannabis distributors in the city to boost revenue, a proposal the council’s majority has previously rejected.

Speakers also urged the council not to cut funding for the maintenance of the Queen Califia Magic Circle, an installation by sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle in Kit Carson Park. City officials said no cuts to the outdoor installation are proposed.

Also addressing the council was Sara Matta, chair of the arts center’s board, who said the center is willing to work with the city on its budget issues but cannot absorb a $ 1.9 million financial blow within a year.

“We believe that not only is it inappropriate and short-sighted, but it will put the center in an unstable financial situation,” Matta said.

The arts center is a city-owned structure operated by a non-profit foundation, overseen by a board of directors. The city’s preliminary budget required a $ 2.5m contribution to the center’s operating costs, but in the revised budget presented Wednesday, a $ 1.9m cut was proposed.

After Wednesday’s meeting, it was not immediately clear what level of cuts, if any, would be placed at the arts center.

“The City Council instruction was to return $ 5 million to operating budget VF 2022/23 to address program, service and staffing needs,” city manager Sean McGlynn wrote in an email. “One of the issues under consideration is funding for the California Center for the Arts. The city Executive Leadership team will meet next week to determine the next steps. We anticipate having talks with the CCAE leadership as part of this process. ”

Jerry van Leeuwen, the center’s executive director, said in an interview that a $ 1.9 million cut would force the center to cut costs in areas such as lowering fees for schools and nonprofits, holding free community events such as celebrations. of festivals and concerts, and museum exhibitions. .

“It would be a big blow to our community and our customers,” van Leeuwen said.

The center is an important part of Escondido’s civic life, van Leeuwen said, offering a “huge boost to the community image” as well as serving as an economic driver by bringing visitors to hotels, restaurants and other businesses. of the city.

“I hope they will keep us at the level they gave us this year,” van Leeuwen said.

While council members voiced support for restoring part or all of the arts center funding at Wednesday’s meeting, at least one member said that in the future, the city should reduce the arts center subsidy.

“No matter what happens today, this year, right now, there has to be a change there because the current model is not working and citizens can no longer subsidize (the arts center) at a rate of $ 2.5 million a year,” Morasco said. . .

Once city staff have finalized the budget, the document will be returned to the council for approval, possibly at its June 22 meeting. The city is also polling residents if they will support a sales tax increase of up to one cent to close the city’s structural budget deficit.

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Arts center subsidy could be cut to balance Escondido 2022-23 budget Source link Arts center subsidy could be cut to balance Escondido 2022-23 budget

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