Escondido adopts a balanced budget that makes a small cut to the arts center

Escondido City Council unanimously approved a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, after wrangling for nearly two months to make up an $8.5 million shortfall in the plan. initial city expenditure.

Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez said ahead of Wednesday’s 5-0 vote that changes to the budget in recent weeks have resulted in an improved spending plan. “It was the most vigorous discussion about a budget we’ve had in my time on the board,” she said.

Rather than making deep cuts to city programs and services to balance the operating budget — which now stands at $125.7 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year — city officials raised their revenue projections for sales and property taxes by $1.4 million and relied on a $3.7 million infusion from federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to cover the bulk revenue shortfall, as well as more modest reductions.

A major change was the decision not to cut the city’s annual grant to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, which is owned by the city and operated by a nonprofit foundation, by up to $1.9 million. . The biggest cut had been considered earlier during budget deliberations.

Since 2012, the City has subsidized the centre’s budget with an annual amount of between $1.2 million and $2.5 million. Foundation officials said the originally proposed cut would have devastated the arts center’s finances.

In the final budget, the city reduced its annual management fee to the center by $133,000 for the coming year, restoring $1.57 million to its overall contribution, which includes covering the costs of utilities, maintenance expenses and computer services. The center’s annual budget is approximately $7 million and includes revenue from sources such as ticket sales, facility rentals, memberships and donations.

Arts center board chair Sara Matta told the board on Wednesday she was much more relaxed than at a meeting two weeks earlier as the potential $1.9 million cut was still on the table.

“We’re not happy to get a discount, but we think it’s a fair and reasonable solution at this time and we’re committed to working with you in the months to come,” Matta said.

Funding at the current level allows the center to “continue its mission of bringing people together to discover, create and celebrate the visual and performing arts,” she said.

Several members of the public submitted comments regarding the city’s budget deliberations, including those who urged against cuts to the Tiny Tots pre-K and child care program at the Don Anderson Community Building.

When questioned by council members, city staff said no discount was recommended for the Tiny Tots program. Concerns may have arisen because the program was listed for possible cuts in an earlier version of the budget.

The challenge facing the city to balance next year’s budget could be repeated in years to come if the city does not find ways to increase revenue, a city staff report on the budget said. .

“Until revenues grow in a continuous and structural fashion, the city must continue to rely on short-term, one-time resources to continue operations and avoid drastic cuts to city services,” the report said.

Recent budget projections provided by city staff show shortfalls between $3 million and $12 million over the next 16 years. This is due to the rising cost of municipal services outpacing revenue growth.

Among the options being considered to generate additional revenue is a sales tax increase of up to one cent to pay for ongoing municipal services. A four-vote majority by city council would be needed to bring the issue to Escondido voters in November, while a simple majority would be needed for passage. A similar measure in 2020 failed to garner enough votes from city council to be placed on the ballot.

William E. Bennett