Taxes, benefit changes put SLO budget in black

San Luis Obispo will enter the next fiscal year with a balanced budget as key revenue sources are finally reaching pre-recession levels.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will review more than 100 pages of background materials Tuesday as it prepares to plan for the city’s 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Because of sales and transient occupancy tax revenue increases and more than $3 million in employee benefit concessions, the city’s general fund will be in the black instead of in the red as expected.

The city reported in June that the $96.1 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year includes $1.9 million more sales tax revenue than originally estimated. Sales tax is the largest revenue source for the city, about 25 percent of its $55 million general fund.

How the money will be spent has yet to be decided.

The City Council will review a five-year fiscal forecast for 2013-2018 on Dec. 18. In early January, a community forum will be held to set goals for the upcoming two-year budget.

To date, major city goals such as economic development, preservation of services and fiscal health and neighborhood wellness are all on track to be met, according to city staff.

Accomplishments include the city’s first strategic plan focused on economic development, creation of a two-tier pension system to lower employee costs and the launch of a neighborhood services program.

The council has been cautioned that more money must be spent on capital improvement projects.

Only $5.2 million was allocated for those costs this year, but an estimated $9 million annually is needed to fully maintain and repair existing infrastructure.

A significant endeavor will be the Los Osos Valley Road Interchange.

The project, initially delayed by a now resolved lawsuit filed by nearby property owners, is moving forward. According to city staff, construction plans for the interchange are nearly complete, and work is under way to get appraisals and easements.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chamber, 990 Palm St.