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Cautious optimism over city budget

With the economy making slow progress, the city's fiscal rebound also is slow, officials say.

February 12, 2013|By Bradley Zint

Since the lows spurred by the Great Recession, Costa Mesa's budget outlook is on the rise, city officials said Tuesday, though it's not a case of skyrocketing good fortunes.

In a study session with four members of the City Council — Councilman Gary Monahan was absent — Finance Director Bobby Young said Costa Mesa has not again achieved its high from fiscal year 2006-2007, though in the years since the 2009-2010 fiscal-year low, the fund balance has been steadily increasing.

"We're not back yet, but we have stabilized," Young said. "We have bottomed out. It's kind of that balancing point."

With city expenditures compared to revenues, Costa Mesa is "not close to where we were. The rebound is slow," he said.

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For the first six months of 2012-2013 fiscal year — which began July 1 and ends June 30 — there have also been marked increases in various tax revenues, according to a city staff report.

Sales tax revenue is up 10.26% compared to the same period last fiscal year, as is the transient occupancy tax, or TOT — which is generated through overnight stays at city hotels and motels — by 9.4%, according to the report.

Young called the requested mid-year budget revenue adjustments for the two taxes "conservative." City staff has asked for an estimated sales tax revenue increase of $700,000 to be reflected on the budget and a $200,000 estimated increase for the TOT.

Throughout the presentations, the council members had chances to comment or ask questions.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger both said they would like to see a return of some youth recreation programs.

Councilwoman Sandy Genis asked for the Police and Fire departments to determine their needs toward keeping the city safe, though she also expressed caution.

"We've been through some really tough times," Genis said. "I think we want to be really careful before we start going back to the spend, spend, spend."

The next council study session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Council Chambers, 77 Fair Drive. During the session, Joe Nation of Stanford University is expected to give a presentation of his findings concerning the city's unfunded pension obligations.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint

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