With an estimated $1.18 million surplus from fiscal year 2013, South Lake Tahoe is splitting the money up between a variety of city projects and temporary pay raises for its workers.
The City Council voted Tuesday to put $250,000 toward the Harrison Avenue project and to use $250,000 to give full-time workers a temporary 2 percent salary increase for this year. Eligible part-time workers will get a $250 payment.
City Manager Nancy Kerry and City Attorney Tom Watson are opting to not receive the pay adjustments.
Kerry presented the spending plan for the surplus Tuesday, as well as a brief look back at the city’s finances. She discussed how cash flows turned negative during a recession that saw the city shed a third of its workforce, as well as how those cash flows are recovering after some tough budget decisions.
Kerry also touted the city’s improved long-term finances, with $14.5 million in reduced liabilities from changes in health benefits for retirees. More work needs to be done, Kerry said, calling the city’s retirement benefits unsustainable.
This is the second-straight year the city has ended its budget year with a positive cash balance while maintaining its 25 percent in general fund reserves. Last year’s balance was about $650,000.
“We’re on the right track but it’s only because of a lot of decisions made by a lot of people, so we need to stay the course, re-stabilize and invest in the future,” Kerry said.
About $349,000 of the surplus has been allocated for parks and trails projects, a recreation master plan study, computer hardware purchases and law enforcement expenditures.
Another $334,000 could be used for projects, deferred maintenance or department needs — or it could help plug a budget hole that would appear if the city axes its paid parking program, as some people would like. That discussion is anticipated to continue at a financial policy workshop scheduled for Feb. 10.
Kerry estimated it would cost about $600,000 to terminate the city’s paid parking program. The total includes various expenses, lost revenues and about $191,000 the city still owes on its parking kiosks.
Kerry urged continued caution, telling the City Council members they need to be strategic about hiring back personnel. City departments are analyzing their staffing needs in advance of the financial policies workshop.
From parking meters to a dedicated auditor to go after taxes from vacation rentals, the city has done what it can to bring in additional revenues, Kerry said, adding that a strong economy will do the most to improve the city’s finances.
Kerry highlighted several city initiatives that aim to help improve the local economy.
They include development of a recreation master plan, workshops on affordable housing needs and outdoor display regulations for businesses, a planning process for the municipal airport that will examine the feasibility of restoring commercial service and a plan being prepared by public works to address infrastructure needs and an estimated $100 million backlog in deferred maintenance.
City staffers also are working to revamp a complex array of municipal codes, Kerry said. The goal is to trim 36 chapters down to nine for a more streamlined regulatory environment for businesses.
In other business Tuesday, the City Council:
• Approved the $78,437 purchase of a new, moveable hydraulic lift system for five mechanics in the Fleet Services Division.
• Retained $20,000 in unspent reserves for the Highway 50 linear park project for unanticipated work that may be needed this spring to finish the job, transferring the remaining $125,325 in unspent reserves to the Harrison Avenue project.
Council members agreed to use an additional $10,000 for possible public art projects in the linear park. They will discuss that initiative at future meetings.
• Passed two resolutions to adopt an amended Tourist Core Area Plan approved last fall by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.