The Santa Rosa City Council passed a $340.1 million budget Thursday that represents a 9 percent increase in spending as improved revenues allow the city to begin rebuilding staffing levels after years of cuts to many departments.
Santa Rosa plans to refinance about $35 million in pension bonds in an effort to control costs and prevent the city credit rating from slipping further.
Santa Rosa’s City Council begins the first of two in-depth budget sessions Tuesday to decide how to spend about 9 percent more in the coming year.
Santa Rosa’s pension costs are continuing to climb and probably will for several years despite state and local reform efforts, but officials say healthy investment returns and lower benefits for new workers may eventually help rein in costs.
The city recently learned that its largest annual retirement cost, its payment to the California Public Employees Retirement System, is set to increase by about $1 million next year, to $20.4 million.
Higher tax revenues from the improving economy combined with cost savings from employee concessions should put Santa Rosa in the black for the third year in a row. The city should end this fiscal year with $17.8 million in reserves, the first time in five years it has hit its goal of having at least 15 percent of its general fund set aside for emergencies.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company underpaid the City of Santa Rosa nearly $68,000 last year by failing to collect taxes from some customers’ accounts and improperly collecting them from others.
The glitch, discovered after the utility rolled out a billing system upgrade, has taken more than a year and a half to sort out, with a settlement deal heading to the City Council Tuesday.
How long the problem has persisted is a mystery, but PG&E now thinks it’s got everything straightened out.
‘We believe at this point that our records are 100 percent accurate,’ said Brittany McKannay, spokeswoman for PG&E.
Santa Rosa’s finances are “slightly improved” due to higher than expected sales tax revenues and concessions from employees, according to the city’s chief financial officer. In his mid-year financial update to the Santa Rosa City Council, Lawrence Chiu said Tuesday the city is on track to end the year $1.7 million ahead of the budget plan.