Needs and wants compete for meager funds in Burlingame budget

City leaders digested two lists Wednesday: one of what residents want and one of what the city needs.

There is not enough money to fully fund the items on both lists, but City Council members Wednesday vowed to find alternative fundraising methods.

“As much as we would like to expand services for citizens, we’re getting the message that this is clearly not the time to do that,” Councilmember Terry Nagel said. “Especially with the talks of a recession around the corner.”

Council members said they are exploring new ways to solve the city’s budget crisis, which includes $204 million in necessary capital improvements. Revenue-raising ideas included calling on donations for certain projects, raising downtown parking meter fees, hiking the city’s hotel tax and charging developers for the damage they do to the community during construction.

The city’s annual budget meeting, during which the council sets its list of projects it will fund for July through June 2009, ended with each city department receiving only a portion of what it asked for. Projects that may not be funded this year include a new $150,000 assistant city manager position, a full-time economic development staff person and a three-year, $1 million revamp to the city’s 1969 general plan. The final budget will be approved in June.

Police wanted Chevy Tahoe command vehicles and Tasers for each officer. Council Chambers improvements priced at $360,000 and $130,000 worth of emission-control compliance retrofits for 13 city vehicles were also slated to go unfunded.

There was, however, some direction to fund projects. The Fire Department’s request for $257,150 to replace self-contained breathing apparatuses was well received. The city also suggested spending about $2.5 million on storm drains, ADA ramps, parks and recreation items, streetlights and more. Still, officials admit, the capital improvement budget should be $4 million.

Councilmember Jerry Deal said boosting parking meter fees could be a source of revenue.

“Our downtown parking areas are usually packed so maybe the fees aren’t high enough,” Deal said.

Some smaller projects might be funded through community donations, Nagel said.

The city may also charge $150 for each project submitted to the Planning Commission to pay for videotaping the board’s biweekly meetings. That fee is a possibility as long as it matches other nearby cities’ rates, Vice Mayor Ann Keighran said.

Bumping the city’s hotel tax from 10 percent to 11 percent would fund projects such as sidewalk repairs but requires a ballot measure, Deal said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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