After a few years of large budget shortfalls, furloughs and layoffs, Grover Beach leaders will see a slightly better financial picture when they start budget discussions tonight.
The Grover Beach City Council still faces a budget deficit, but thanks to tough cuts made last year, the shortfall is smaller and more manageable.
“It’s improved,” Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault said when asked for his take. “I’m not certain I would call it bright. We are getting there, but we have a long ways yet to go.”
To Grover Beach residents, the better budget outlook could mean fewer days when city hall is closed because of an employee furlough, and one additional police officer on the streets.
The City Council tonight will hear a presentation of the proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Last year, the city balanced its budget and cut a $300,000 deficit by laying off four employees, restructuring some departments and selling a piece of property used for a community garden.
This year, Perrault anticipates an $86,928 shortfall to the city’s $7.3 million general fund budget.
“For me, personally, it’s a lot less stressful than it was last year,” Perrault said.
The budget proposal includes money to promote a current officer to a vacant sergeant’s position, and to hire one police officer. Doing so would bring the number of sworn officers in the city up to 17.
Nearly $5 million is budgeted for capital improvement projects, including $400,000 for residential street repairs.
There’s also $912,466 for a project to add decorative concrete sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting on West Grand Avenue between the beach and Second Street, and between Fourth and Fifth streets. All of the funds for that project, except for a $20,000 local match, come from state and federal sources.
The budget proposal so far does not contain employee furloughs or pay cuts — which had become routine in recent years — but some employee concessions could still happen, unless the council decides to use reserves to fill the gap.
In past years, Grover Beach had dipped into its reserve funds to balance the budget, but the council directed last year that the practice end.
This year, some unexpected money will be used to replenish the reserves, including about $180,000 in tax revenues relating to the city’s dissolved redevelopment agency and an additional $128,000 thanks to a recent California Supreme Court decision involving administrative fees charged by the county to collect property taxes.
Monday’s City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at 154 S. Eighth St.