Oxnard – The City Council approved its fiscal 2022-2023 operating and capital improvement budget during the Tuesday, June 21 meeting.
The measure included approval of full-time positions, salary grading, financial management guidelines, a resource allocation limit, a master fee schedule and the Oxnard Housing Authority’s fiscal year 2022-2023 operating budget.
The budget has undergone minor revisions since May 26, which Chief Financial Officer Betsy George said doesn’t change the overall budget picture.
“I will focus on some changes that were made based on the city council’s discussion at the June 7 public hearing and city council meeting,” she said.
George said the council proposed adding two additional fire inspectors to its second restoration budget to increase and provide fire protection services, adding about $200,000 to the fire department’s budget.
“The restoration budget for the 2022-2023 fire department is now $2.2 million,” she said. “All other budgets remain the same.”
The new fire safety budget from the general fund is now $30.8 million plus an additional $3.6 million from Measure O.
George said the city made no changes to the proposed and projected revenue, and the revenue comes primarily from property and sales taxes.
“We have this slight change in proposed budget spending that reflects the approximately $200,000 increase in the fire,” she said. “Most of the city’s spending is on public safety, fire and police. The non-departmental part of the pie is larger. This includes our capital improvements, which is work on roads and other capital infrastructure improvements, as well as the reimbursement of the $10 million infrastructure use fee that the general fund reimburses to the provident funds.”
She noted that the city’s deficit spending is caused by the reimbursement.
“The $10 million infrastructure use fee reimbursement to public utilities is the primary reason for this underspending,” George said.
Mayor John Zaragoza said the budget is the best the city has ever had.
“We had a budget positive year last year and now we have our second budget positive and it’s really fantastic,” he said. “We continue to make major improvements in our maintenance, trees, potholes, parks, roads, our paving, repairs to our toilets, and maintenance work across the city. I want to commend our employees for doing an excellent job because they keep doing their job.”
He noted that 99.9 percent of residents are satisfied with the city’s progress, but 0.1 percent are still not satisfied.
“I want to thank you Mr City Manager, thank our staff and thank all our staff for the work we are doing,” Zaragoza said. “We have excellent leadership in the city of Oxnard. In fact, we probably have one of the best councilors in the county and one of the best councilors I’ve had the privilege of working with. We don’t stamp anything; we talk about what we do.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bryan MacDonald said the budget reports the council receives are a tool the department head uses to manage his department.
“It’s probably impossible to predict things like the cost of gas next week,” he said. “That’s left for the department head to see if gas prices are higher than expected and how can he make up for that by finding savings on other items?”
He found that with a budget of up to 90 line items, there are opportunities to make savings on other line items that offset losses in another line item.
“If they exaggerate a little on a line item, it doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “What I’m looking for is the bottom line of the total number of dollars allocated to this department in their budget and whether they stayed true to that number and ended the year in the black. Then they fulfilled their mission and what was assigned to them.”
MacDonald said he was comfortable with the budget and the staff’s work.
“I have full confidence in their abilities; If they are given a limited number of dollars, they will make the best use of it and under budget,” he said. “That can require that they might not make a particular purchase because they balance things out and that’s the nature of budgets and how things go.”
Councilor Gabe Teran thanked the staff and said the budget is a living document, guiding the city into the next fiscal year of where the city is going and how it intends to get there.
“We’ll address things as they arise and leave it to our professional staff to ease our budget throughout the year,” he said.
Councilor Oscar Madrigal thanked everyone and said the budget was a team effort.
“At the end of the day, things can change overnight, but for once we can say things are looking good here for the most part,” he said. “That’s something that with a tough future economy across the country, we’d probably live in fear now and probably expect cuts mid-year. Where we are today is very different from December 2016 when I came on board. I want to thank everyone.”
Councilor Bert Perello thanked all staff and said that everyone who works for the City of Oxnard is greatly appreciated.
“Councillor Madrigal hit the nail on the head,” Perello said. “A few years ago, Councilors Madrigal, MacDonald and I are the only ones still here and it was really bad. We didn’t know what was going to happen and we’ve been through some really difficult times and now we’re not there.”
Councilor Madrigal was right again, said Perello, and things could always get better.
“It’s a fantastic budget and we’re in pretty damn good shape, ladies and gentlemen,” said Perello. “A big part of that is the work that went into getting Measure E passed and the voters who voted for it. Your votes count.”
Council Member Vianey Lopez echoed the Council’s views and thanked the City leadership, management and staff who do their job every day.
“I’m definitely happy to see a positive budget considering we’re in a time where other cities aren’t in the area that we’re in,” she said. “Given the history and events of the last few years, I couldn’t imagine being in a more positive place. I appreciate all the work that went into this work.”