By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

San Juan Capistrano City Councilmember Derek Reeve addressed how city finances could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a Facebook video.

The city is projecting a loss in revenue of about $1.4 million for the current economic cycle and anticipating another $2 million for next year, according to Reeve. The city’s general operating fund budget is $30 million.

“That’s pretty tough; 3.4 (million) is pretty big,” Reeve said.

One solution is to borrow money from the reserve fund, said Reeve, who noted he has been a fiscal hawk when it comes to borrowing from the reserve fund.  But it is there for emergencies and unanticipated expenses.

Another solution is cutting and delaying spending. City administration will run “a little leaner,” said Reeve, who noted citizens mostly won’t notice the effects. Capital expenditures will be delayed, including the Del Obispo/Ortega Highway project.

“We’re going to continue with the design, but we’re not going to actually build that project as anticipated by this summer,” Reeve said. “That’s about a $500,000 project.”

Funds are expected to come “from the back end,” from the Camino Real Playhouse site developer. Another project expected to be impacted is the skateboard park, which Reeve said is not currently expected to come before the council for funding allocation.

“Before that, we would, but now we’re kind of on hold,” Reeve said.

The Putuidem Cultural Village project is also being delayed until city officials have more information.

Reeve said fees or taxes will not be raised to make up for the shortfall.

The fiscal year begins and ends on July 1, which means the current fiscal year is finishing up and the city will be making preparations for the next fiscal year. The city council will continue its tradition of approving a new fiscal year budget in June.

For the past eight years or so, the city has passed a two-year budget. This year, the city will instead do a one-year budget due to unknown factors caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“It will give us a little bit more flexibility,” Reeve said. “We’re going to have a budget workshop in May and then have a vote on the final budget in June.”

City Manager Ben Siegel said city staff plans to present the council and community with a full budget briefing in May/June, where they will make several recommendations related to project deferrals and some limited service reductions, coupled with a limited borrowing of reserve funds to address the financial impact of the shutdown. 

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