Mayor's Message on the City Budget

When I ask people what they would like to know about the city, the first thing they say is: “We want to know how things are run.” And since the only time most people go to city hall is to pay utility bills, their next question is often: “Where does my money go?”

Good questions! The budget is the foundation for how things run in our city, but it’s a mystery to many people. My goal is to have the budget and the functions of the city be easily understood by all residents. After all, the city budget serves all of us. We all need to be informed and participate in deciding where the money goes and how things run.

This is a good time to start learning about the budget, because it is being reviewed by the City Council. This process happens every year and is open to the public. The entire budget was presented at a City Council meeting on June 13th. City staff did a good job of going through the budget in detail, so everyone could understand it. The next review will be on June 27th, when the council votes to approve the 2017-2018 budget. I invite everyone to come and learn about the budget and where our money is going.

Here are some budget basics to keep in mind:

  • The city budget serves approximately 50,000 residents
  • The total city budget is about $140,000,000 annually
  • The city gets revenues from various sources and most of these are required to be spent for specific purposes. For example:
  • Your utility payment goes to the Solid Waste, Sewer, and Water utilities and can only be used for operations and maintenance of those services
  • The people using the airport pay fees and rent for hangar space, and that revenue can only be used for airport operations and maintenance
  • The General Fund revenues comes mostly from Property Tax, Sales Tax, and City Department fees and covers city administration and public safety:
  • Fire
  • Police
  • Parks and Recreation
  • City Administration
  • The City receives transportation funding from Measure D and Gas Tax revenues (fees you pay when you purchase gas for your car) that can only be used for maintaining and improving local roads and street infrastructure

The good news is that our city is financially stable. The council and staff have been focused on bringing in businesses and jobs. New projects at the airport, the expansion of Kaiser Permanente and the completion of the FedEx Distribution Center all provide important job and retail growth.

More revenues allow us to improve the quality of life for all residents: improvements to parks, walkways, and bike lanes, more cultural programs and events to bring our community together. With growth, we also want more lighting and traffic controls to keep pedestrians safe, especially near our schools and downtown.

Our city budget also faces challenges. Watsonville is not an island and our budget is impacted by our region, state and the country. One of the main challenges ahead is CalPERS or the state retirement system, which lost millions of dollars in the 2008 financial crisis. CalPERS have raised costs for all cities and these fees will continue to go up. By 2021-2022, the city will be required to pay an additional $6,000,000 in pension costs. The City also has many maintenance projects needed for our City buildings, community centers and parks. We must develop creative ways to maintain these important community assets.

These are a few of the issues and opportunities that we must all pay attention to and discuss together. The decisions we make will shape the quality of our lives and the future of our city. I invite you to participate in the upcoming City Council meetings and to contact and your City Council member at 831-768-3008.


Lowell Hurst