Chula Vista OKs budget that includes money for new fire academy, infrastructure repairs, more staffing

Chula Vista has approved its fiscal year 2022-23 budget and it includes funding for increased staffing, a new fire academy and infrastructure repairs.

Council members last week adopted an overall spending plan of $534 million that consists of $249 million for its general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations, $51 million for capital improvement projects and the remaining for funds that pay for operations such as sewage or maintaining open space districts.

The city’s current general fund expenditures amount to $218 million, meaning that it will spend $31 million more in the new fiscal year that starts July 1. The city anticipates a balanced budget but expects general fund revenues to decrease starting in 2028 after Measure P expires.

The primary revenue drivers in fiscal year 2022-23 are increases of $1.6 million in franchise fees, $3.4 million in property taxes and motor vehicle license fees, $3.8 million in sales tax revenues and $5.7 million in both Measure A and Measure P revenues, said Ed Prendell, the city’s budget manager.

Measure P is the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure that voters passed in 2016 and expires in 2027. It is expected to generate about $26 million next year. Once this sales tax sunsets, the city projects expenditures to outpace revenues. Chula Vista could see deficits increase from $1.5 million in 2024 to $12 million in 2031, according to the city’s long-term financial plan for fiscal 2023-2032.

“It is important to emphasize that the (long-term financial plan) is not a budget and should projected expenditures exceed projected revenues in any given year, the city manager will need to identify steps to mitigate the shortfalls in order to present a balanced budget , as required by law, to the City Council for consideration,” said city Finance Director Sarah Schoen.

Measure A, approved by voters in 2018, is a half-cent sales tax to support public safety staffing. With unanimous council support, the Measure A fund now has a policy requiring that it maintain reserve levels of 60 days “to provide for unexpected financial impacts related to a significant economic downturn,” according to a city staff report. The budget includes nine added Measure A-related positions, which won’t be affected by economic struggles because the city will have reserves to fall back on, said City Manager Maria Kachadoorian.

In addition to those nine positions, the city added 30 others in various departments including parks and recreation, animal care, engineering and transport, which has paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Six of the 39 positions were made possible using American Rescue Plan Act dollars, according to the budget.

Under its general fund, the single-largest expense is personnel costs. Chula Vista will increase costs by $5.4 million over the current year for a total of $103 million. Most of those increases are budgeted for salary raises. The city plans to pay $5.3 million more for wages. Health insurance, pension costs, the city’s liability insurance and utility costs also increased expenses.

Below is a breakdown of where Chula Vista will spend its $249 million for its general funds:

  • $96.5 million for non-departmental;
  • $53 million for its police department;
  • $30 million for its fire department;
  • $14 million for public works;
  • $12 million for parks and recreation;
  • $10 million for engineering;
  • $4 million for information technology
  • $4 million for finance
  • $4 million for economic development
  • $3.5 million for its library
  • $3 million for city attorney
  • $3 million for animal care
  • $3 million for human resources
  • $2.6 million for developmental services
  • $2.5 million for administration
  • $1.6 million for city council
  • $1.3 million for city clerk
  • $900,000 for boards and commission

Within those expenditures, the city will spend $8 million to reconstruct the Loma Verde Community Center, $1.4 million for a new fire academy to address anticipated vacancies and attrition in the fire department, as well as $1 million for two new parks and staffing for park maintenance and tree trimming services.

Of Chula Vista’s $57.5 million in ARPA funding, its second allocation of $28 million is expected to be received in the coming weeks, said Prendell. The council approved a plan to set aside $17 million as revenue recovery, $10 million for more COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and ventilation upgrades, and $600,000 as extra pay for essential workers.

The city has until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend the federal money.

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