The Santa Ana City Council Tuesday night decided on a spending plan for the $11.2 million in extra revenue leftover from the fiscal year that ended June 30, allocating much of the revenue toward badly needed maintenance.
Millions will be spent on park renovations and security lights, IT equipment upgrades, vehicle replacements, HVAC overhauls at city facilities and police body cameras. Other major expenditures include $400,000 for services for homeless people, $1 million for an update of the city’s general plan, and $500,000 for a city employee pension stability fund.
Click here to see the full list of 44 projects scheduled to be funded over the next two fiscal years.
City staff described the revenue as a “budget surplus,” but council members Vincent Sarmiento and Michele Martinez took issue with that characterization, saying it’s actually revenue that wasn’t allocated when the budget was first put together.
Councilman Roman Reyna said the total citywide deferred maintenance has racked up to $60 million, so what was allocated Tuesday night is actually just a fraction of what needs to be spent.
“When your house is falling apart you don’t buy a Jacuzzi. You fix it,” Reyna said.
Council members were also presented with another spending plan for $2 million in additional revenue expected to come from the sale of city-owned properties on Bristol Street. But they tabled approving this plan until they receive revenue from the property sales.
Under this second spending list, city staff is recommending funding for two skate parks and two new clay tennis courts at the Cabrillo Tennis Center, among other expenses.
Mayor Miguel Pulido, who has in the past unsuccessfully lobbied his council members to fund these tennis court improvements, pointed out that the new courts were originally in the first round of funding but were pushed into the second round.
City Manager David Cavazos replied that when officials looked at the courts, they decided they needed to fix the existing courts before adding new ones. He added that the new courts were on the list for the future.
Finally, council members separately allocated $3.8 million from their economic uncertainty fund – essentially an additional reserve fund the city established during its historic budget crisis in 2011 – for maintenance and improvements at the city’s train station.
Members of the public who spoke at the meeting generally supported the spending plan. Representatives of Latino Health Access (LHA) and El Centro Cultural de Mexico – groups that offer health services and cultural activities for working-class Latinos – also requested funds.
LHA Executive Director America Bracho requested $1 million for the organization’s headquarters that would go towards paying the mortgage, upgrades and repairs. El Centro meanwhile in a letter asked for money to move into a new building.
El Centro representative Luis Sarmiento asked the city to reallocate a modest amount from the train station allocation to help with its aspirations for a new building.
Martinez and Councilman Vincent Sarmiento – no relation to Luis Sarmiento – asked that city staff look at El Centro’s request for funding under the spending plan funded by the properties sale, as well as funding for civic engagement like voter registration drives and citizenship fairs.
In addition to the money already set aside for homeless services, Sarmiento asked that city officials also look at funding more homeless services by dipping into a separate $419,000 budget line item for civic center renovations.
“What better legacy than to address the homeless problem? At least take a chunk out of it. At least leave our mark,” Sarmiento said.
Martinez said she was pleased the council decided to allocate seed funding for a pension stability fund. And despite what’s being presented as bright financial picture, she warned that the city’s unfunded pension liability of over $423 million remains a daunting financial challenge.
“When we have an unfunded liability this big, it should be troubling to the community,” Martinez said. “It is a commitment we can’t go back on.”
Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek
Since you've made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.
Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.