Budget Adjustment Includes Restoration of Staff Jobs

The Murrieta City Council Tuesday approved staff's request for a budget adjustment that includes an increase of more than $1.6 million...

The Murrieta City Council Tuesday approved staff's request for a budget adjustment that includes an increase of more than $1.6 million in expenses.

Citing economic recovery and the need to replace staff positions that were eliminated in recent years, Administrative Services Director Joy Canfield presented to the council a proposal that included, among other adjustments:

-- Reinstating the position of Civil Engineer Associate at a cost of $103,520.
-- Adding an assistant planner on a two-year limited term at a cost of $82,315.
-- Adding a temporary part-time planner at a cost of $41,600.
-- Reorganizing department positions at a cost of $64,500.

Other expenses added to the budget included $150,000 for roof repair of the old City Hall; $300,000 for labor negotiation contingency; and a $490,000 transfer to the community services district for water, tot lot updates and plant material.

The approved budget adjustment also included increased revenue projections of $2.3 million, which would more than offset the expenses.

While explaining to council members her justification for the adjustments, Canfield said the city would "continue to proceed cautiously" as the economic recovery continues.

In her proposal document, Canfield wrote that retail sales in the city have increased for the past four years and housing prices rebounded in the last year. She cited a Riverside County assessed valuation report that shows Murrieta's assessed value is up 9.1 percent for the 2014/15 tax roll.

This is in stark contrast to 2013, when a two-year budget adopted by the city council included large staffing cuts because of a reported $10 million loss in revenue in the general fund in recent years.

Canfield said additional budget adjustments would be recommended in November. Council member Randon Lane (right) expressed concern that additional budget increases were not being addressed at this time, citing concern over a shortage of clerical staff for the Murrieta Fire Department.

Council member Rick Gibbs referred to a $9 million contingency fund, created by funds received from the state Board of Equalization, as a primary reason the city was able to survive the $10 million loss in revenue -- along with smart fiscal planning.

"While we lost $10 million, by tightening our belts and with the contingency fund, we were able to maintain a balanced budget," said Gibbs, left. "We never touched our reserve budget; we lived off the contingency fund. There is approximately $5 million of that fund left."

Mayor Alan Long praised city staff for its work during the economic downturn.

"The staff did an excellent job of scrutinizing their own budgets," he said.


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