Just like most other communities in the county, Carlsbad’s finances are tanking. The City’s finance experts are projecting a deficit during the next three years.
For the first quarter of the current fiscal year, general-fund revenues are down $2.2 million compared to the same time last year. Last January, the city council accounted for a $4.6 million reduction from the general fund. This June, the city’s financial team estimates $4.5 million less in revenues.
There’s more. Sales-tax proceeds are down in Carlsbad. At the city’s 11 car dealerships, sales slipped to 1999 levels. Revenues from the transient occupancy tax are down 3 percent from last year, and development-related incomes are down by 51 percent.
Plus, the city expects about $4 million in property-tax revenues will be diverted to the state in order to make up for their budget shortfall (the state is allowed to “borrow” property tax revenues from local municipalities if experiencing a fiscal emergency.)
With the city’s financial riptide in mind, some councilmembers and the city finance department are doing the backstroke on plans to proceed with the Alga Norte Community Park and Aquatic Center.
The 32-acre park, featuring three basketball courts, baseball fields, a skate park, dog park, and an Olympic-sized aquatic center, has been in the works since 2002.
But, financial concerns continue to delay progress on the park.
The city is unsure how to fund the complex after it is built. Finance experts estimate a $1.2 million annual expense added to the city’s budget for maintenance and operation costs.
However, patience from community members awaiting the park has run out. During the April 21 meeting of the Carlsbad City Council, residents packed council chambers to hear where their representatives stand on the park’s future.
After a presentation to inform on construction and operating options, dozens of speakers pleaded with councilmembers to get moving. They wore yellow stickers and applauded loudly after each proponent of the park spoke.
So, the council tried to meet the park proponents halfway. Mayor Bud Lewis and councilmembers Matt Hall and Mark Packard voted in favor of proceeding with preliminary grading of the site but delaying further construction until the economy levels out.
“I grew up during the Depression,” said Mayor Lewis after hearing hours of public comment. “I grew up with a family that lost everything — lost our farm, lost everything — so we migrated westward. I don’t know how many of you people have actually lost your income, where you have no idea where your money is coming from. I can’t go off on a pipe dream saying this ten-year financial forecast is how it’s going to be because we don’t know what it’s going to be. The reason you have a good general-fund reserve is this council, at least a majority, has been very, very tough on expenditures. Once you’ve been caught with your economic pants down, it’s very hard to recover.”
The dissenting votes came from councilmembers Keith Blackburn and Ann Kulchin, who want to proceed without any additional delays.
For more on Alga Norte Park, go to Carlsbadca.gov.