Relatively speaking, despite a 3.3 million-dollar structural deficit, National City’s finances are in pretty good shape -- that’s what mayor Ron Morrison told nearly 40 residents during a special city-council-sponsored “strategic planning and budgetary workshop” inside Kimball Senior Center on D Avenue on Saturday, March 21.
Compared to Chula Vista’s projected deficit of $19.5 million for next fiscal year or San Diego’s $60 million shortfall, $3.3 million isn’t that much.
During the weekend meeting, National City city manager Chris Zapata said reduced revenues from car sales, closure of big-box stores such as Circuit City and Mervyn’s, and the loss of revenue-generating projects such as the new Home Depot and Costco have negatively impacted the city’s revenue stream during the past year.
Yet, despite dipping into the reserves last January to account for the budgetary shortfall, during the meeting, city officials classified the city’s finances as “strong” even in this “challenging financial environment.”
Inside the Kimball Senior Center, the city’s director of finance, Jeanette Ladrido, said National City has “clean financial audits” with limited debt and is monitoring expenditures and finding more efficient ways to run city government, all part of a “cost containment” strategy.
Part of that strategy included looking at every position on the city’s payroll. So far, National City has suspended hiring for 37 vacant positions, 13 of which for the police department.
And although the citywide reorganization has amounted to over a million dollars worth of savings, there’s another reason National City’s books aren’t as burdened with debt as other cities: the one-cent sales tax that residents voted to extend this last election.
“I know the mayor said we are doing relatively well, and you know relative is…relative,” said councilmember Frank Parra near the end of the four-and-a-half-hour-long meeting. “If it wasn’t for the one cent [sales tax] we’d be devastated, just like many other cities across this county.”
Mayor Morrison agreed, saying although neighboring cities are looking at National City as an example to solve their budgetary shortfalls, the city has “problems of its own.”
Morrison also reminded some citizens that before the city invests in any projects such as more open green spaces or parks, sustainable funds need to be in place.
Morrison did have one idea for open, green space: the city’s golf course. “Very little of our public gets to use that, but it’s our biggest area of green space. It’s one of the things we can look at. I know it’s going to be controversial and a lot of people are going to be screaming and yelling, but I think we need to take a look at what’s best for the overall community.”
For more on National City’s theory of financial relativity, go to their next budget workshop on May 26 at City Hall.