Foster City officials cautious about budget

The same five-year planning that helped Foster City weather the fallout of the “dot-bomb” is still in place as its revenues slowly recover and catch up to its operating budget.

The operating budget being discussed at this evening’s special City Council session is $110,000 higher thanthe expected revenue for this coming year. Although the city is finally in a position to begin replacing some Police and Fire Department positions cut four years ago, officials said some cuts still need to be made, and cautious spending is a necessity.

“We are extremely lucky that we are in good shape, but sometimes being in good shape promotes a false sense of security,” Councilman Rick Wykoff said. “We ought to take a real close look at all our expenditures, and where we can economize we need to economize without cutting back on services in major areas.”

Administrative Services Director Steve Toler said that because of conservative financial estimates, the city typically sees higher revenues and lower expenditures than projected.

For more than 10 years, Foster City has used a five-year planning approach that has allowed it to weather tough economic times, Toler said.

Although the city is finally in a position to begin replacing police officers and firefighters who were cut from the budget in 2003 and 2004, they will not begin filling those spots until 2008.

Foster City cut nine police and five fire positions between the 2003-04 and 2004-05 fiscal years.

The proposed budget also includes a number of pending capital improvement projects that the city plans to tackle in the next five years. In addition to artificial surface fields at Catamaran and Sea Cloud parks, the city is going to develop the new Levee Park at the south end of Foster City Boulevard in 2011.

Because development has slowed, the capital improvement budget — approximately $5.5 million — is going to shrink by more than $3 million in the next four years as the city spends on the park projects. Toler said he doesn’t expect capital improvement funding to return to its current level until 2011, when funds from developments now in the works begin flowing in.

The proposed budget also includes $12,000 for goose-chasing dogs at Bowditch Middle, Audubon Elementary and Foster City Elementary schools.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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