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By Collin Breaux | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @collin_breaux
The coronavirus pandemic is expected to result in an overall $3.8 million revenue loss for the City of San Juan Capistrano’s general fund.
City Manager Ben Siegel and Chief Financial Officer Ken Al-Imam discussed impacts to fiscal year budgets with the city council during a meeting on Tuesday, May 5. City staff typically presents two-year budgets to the council this time of year, but is now proposing a one-year budget due to the health crisis and frequently shifting circumstances.
City staff is also proposing to use limited reserve funds. The most significant impact has been to the city’s sales-tax revenue due to business restrictions, Al-Imam said. Lost revenue from hotels is also a factor, with Siegel saying the planned opening of Inn at the Mission, originally scheduled for the spring, has been delayed.
The city expects to undergo an organizational restructuring. Recommendations for such include eliminating vacant positions, taking advantage of natural synergies between departments and laying off four existing positions, according to Siegel.
“It’s intended to maintain public safety service, maintain other essential services, road maintenance, building and planning,” Siegel said. “The cuts are focused primarily on non-essential services, and I would include in non-essential services primarily community services or parks and recreation.”
Everything proposed about the restructuring is preliminary, subject to change and will require input and negotiations with the city’s two labor associations.
Other effects could include eliminating the summer concert series at the Historic Town Center Park. As for Fourth of July celebrations, Siegel said they would like to explore options to allow for some type of fireworks show, although without the usual festivities. People may have to watch from their homes or from their cars, Siegel said.
Some projects in the works will be impacted.
“One of the projects staff is recommending the city council temporarily defer is the Northwest Open Space Park, also known as the Putuidem Village Project,” Siegel said. “As the council knows, the design plans are complete and approved. We have received bids, but we are recommending, though, that you suspend construction at this time.”
City staff also recommends the gateway landscaping project near downtown be delayed. The project will improve a corridor near Ortega Highway that serves as an entry point to downtown coming off the I-5.
The skateboard park project could also be put on hold. Design work has not been initiated, and the project has not yet been funded, though staff is proposing to fund it as part of a seven-year capital improvement program. Residents have long called for a skateboard park to be built in town.
Staff is recommending other projects still continue as scheduled, including the Meredith Canyon Street Pavement Rehabilitation Project, which will involve maintenance work for some residential streets. The project is not a general fund project. Plans and specifications were recently approved by the council, and a construction contract award is expected to be brought forward in June. Construction could begin this summer.
“The streets in that area are in significant need of repair, and the longer we wait, the more expensive those improvements will be,” Siegel said.
A downtown parking expansion project is also recommended to go forward.
City staff is not recommending raising fees and taxes as a solution for fiscal impacts.
After Siegel’s presentation, councilmembers did not extensively comment on the suggestions and projected budget impacts beyond thanking city staff and others for their work.
“I support the recommendation. We do want to stay hopeful as a city,” Councilmember Brian Maryott said. “We’re having to make hard decisions. It’s difficult for everybody.”
A budget is expected to be adopted in June. City officials and staff discussed the possibility of revisiting the budget quarterly