The City Manager has released his Recommended Budget and Resource Allocation for FY 2013/14, for your reading pleasure. Sunnyvale uses 2-year budgets with an accompanying 20-year forecast. The budget consists of an operating component (the budget needed to maintain the smooth functioning of ongoing city operations) and a capital expenditure component (the budget needed to replace all of the city’s capital expenses – buildings, major equipment, and so on). So we stagger the budgets, putting out a two-year operating budget one year, and a two-year capital budget the next. The lines are sometimes blurred when circumstances encourage changes to an ongoing 2-year budget, so it isn’t uncommon to see changes to the operating budget in a capital budget and vice versa. This year’s budget is a capital expenditures budget.
Much as I’d like to give out a thumbs up/down commentary, I cannot give my impression of this budget, because 1) I’m not supposed to do so before we vote on it, and 2) I haven’t read all of it yet… But there are some interesting highlights from the budget, which I’ll call out.
As the City Manager says, the basic long-term plan is largely unchanged. Specifically, our operating costs are stable, and we’re on track to achieve pension and medical cost stability over the 20-year plan. But both require long-term savings to kick in, specifically from the second and third pension tiers that we’ve now put in place. We need to stick to the plan he laid out to achieve short-term savings, by negotiating to have employees assume a greater share of their retirement costs and by making small changes to the public safety salary methodology. Failing that, we’ll have to achieve equivalent savings or revenue elsewhere.
The planned draw-down of staffing has achieved the savings and improved efficiency that the City Manager wanted. However, we’re not quite at the ideal staffing levels, and we don’t have the right people in the right places just yet. So we’re starting to address those needs this year. The improved budget picture means that we’re hiring again. The recommended budget proposes increasing staffing in the following areas:
- two new Public Safety Officers
- a new Public Safety position, Senior Crime Analyst
- a new HR position, Principal Human Resource Analyst
- a new IT position, Help Desk Technician
- a new IT position, PC Technician
- one additional position, Civil Engineer
Two of these are worth calling out, beyond the two new PSOs, which are great to see. The Senior Crime Analyst is a big addition, and one which many medium and all large cities have. This position will be responsible for identifying crime trends and performing more in-depth investigation beyond what we can normally do, to proactively attack the crime surge that the entire Bay Area is experiencing (30% increases in property crimes throughout the area). As I understand it, his efforts will allow DPS to target patrols at the right place at the right time, as well as to investigate these burglaries beyond just individual events and target the planning and system that exists behind some of these guys.
The Civil Engineer is also significant, since he’ll be working on the $300 million Water Pollution Control Plant rebuild.
One of the big unknowns is the ongoing war that the state is waging to pick our pockets in any way it can. They’ve tried to hit us for even more RDA money, even though a separate State agency examined the payments in question and determined them to be valid. More on this to come, probably soon. But we’re talking about big numbers here.
And we’ve got ongoing challenges getting the golf and tennis services to reach sustainability. That’s an issue of concern for me.
There’s a lot more, and we’ll be getting into the details over the next month. I’ll likely have my annual budget town hall sometime between the all-day budget workshop and adoption of the budget.