For the first time in five years, the city’s budget isn’t looking down the barrel of a last-minute money grab by the state.
Instead, the city enjoys a pleasant $425,000 surplus due to city revenues being $1.3 million higher than expected, primarily because of an unexpected bounty of property taxes, according to Finance Director Brian Ponty.
Expenses also crept higher, leaving the city with a modest amount of money left over — and some tough financial choices in the coming years.
For starters, the city still owes $41 million on its retirement plans and another $2.1 million on its workers’ compensation fund.
Federal changes to telecom-related tax collections could cost the city $2.3 million, money put toward new construction projects.
“Those are the dark clouds on the horizon,” Ponty said.
Redwood City has already seen plenty of dark clouds, according to Mayor Barbara Pierce.
In the past half-decade, it has cut millions of dollars in expenses and 60 employees. Most of its remaining employees have not seen raises in two years.
In recent workshops, residents asked the city to put more money into public safety, traffic controls, transit and making the city friendlier to bicycles and pedestrians.
“Things are going in the right direction, but there’s still a lot we need to take care of,” Pierce said.
The City Council will begin weighing options for the $425,000 surplus when it begins formal budget talks in early June.
For once, those budget talks won’t be overshadowed by funding grabs at the state level, according to City Manager Ed Everett.
“It’s not fun cutting your organization, reducing positions and services to the public,” Everett said.
“The public has been very understanding, but the sooner we can put some of those [services] back online the better.”