City Council looks at financial sustainability

File photo

Multi-year forecast to be part of budget. Staff to propose funding projects from revenues

First in a series on Seal Beach’s strategic plans.

This year, for the first time, staff will propose using revenue to fund city projects, according to City Finance Director/Treasurer Kelly Telford.

The financial sustainability of Seal Beach was part of the city’s five-hour, 19-minute strategic planning session held Wednesday, March 31.

(The meeting was held after the Sun’s print deadline.)

Telford gave the council an overview of the city’s finances during the planning session.

According to Telford, financing projects from revenue will not be easy, as the city has some large improvement and IT projects to work on.

(Those projects include the long-discussed community pool project, the future use of the end of the pier, restrooms at the other end of the pier, and Lifeguard headquarters.)

Telford said that historically, the city has used General Fund reserves to pay for improvement projects.

She said the city wants to make sure it maintains health reserves.

Telford said it was the city’s policy to keep reserves between 20 and 255 of operating expenditures.

She said one of the goals set last spring was to develop a five-year financial forecast.

She said for the past year, staff had been dealing with COVID-19.

However, according to Telford, staff and a consultant had been working on an update of the city’s forecast model.

The forecast is expected to be part of the city’s budget.

According to Telford, the model will be completed before the city begins holding budget workshops.

In addition to those workshops, staff is planning on scheduling town hall meetings for the public to discuss the budget.

“As soon as we can confirm town hall meeting dates, we will be issuing a press release and will get it to you as soon as possible,” wrote City Manager Jill Ingram in an email.

Telford said the updated model would allow for assumptions to be made at a more granular level.

She said this was important because it would allow for greater accuracy of estimates.

She said staff anticipated that the model would be used not just in the annual budget, but also in labor negotiations, planning improvement projects and debt financing.

According to the slide she presented to the council, the model is expected to be completed by the week of April 26, before the council budget study sessions.

Ingram said the new budget process would include:

• a community survey

• two town hall meetings that would most likely be virtual

• a new budget page on the city website

District Two Councilman Thomas Moore said he was happy to hear what he called the three to five year forecast would be part of the budget this year.

“It will be much nicer to see it as part of the budget,” Moore said.

During a recent phone interview, District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic said she still thinks Seal Beach needs to be cautious before making commitments to projects, such as the feasibility of updating the Lifeguard headquarters.