LAFAYETTE -- Once again, city leaders say they'll end the next fiscal year in the black, by the slimmest of margins.

Lafayette officials project the city will end 2011-12 with $223 to spare, thanks in part to what they say are signs the local economy is starting to improve. The city believes sales tax revenues could rise by as much as $300,000 next year.

The city's department heads have also consistently kept expenses below projections, said City Manager Steven Falk. Last year at this time, the city projected it would have a $515 surplus for the current fiscal year. That surplus has since grown to more than half-million dollars.

"Our sales taxes are actually increasing, in spite of the recession, and our property taxes have been level at least over the last year or two," Falk said. "So where other cities have really seen dips in their major sources of revenue, ours have been even or even increasing a little bit."

The City Council trimmed more than $500,000 from the budget in December, but those savings have been negated by a variety of one-time expenses and funding shifts.

In particular, the city is realigning some expenses assuming the governor and state legislators will eliminate redevelopment agencies.


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For example, the city's parking fund, created to use money from parking fines and meters to pay for off-street lots, has for several years paid for city code enforcement. But with that fund low because the city bought land on Moraga Road for a public lot, the general fund will now pay for code enforcement -- about $128,000 next year -- to help replenish the parking fund.

"We had for many years presumed that redevelopment was going to eventually deliver some off-street parking to Lafayette, but we're now less sure that that's the case," Falk said.

At Monday's council meeting, much of the budget discussion centered around how to preserve the promotional banners that adorn streetlights along Mt. Diablo Boulevard.

The council eliminated the city's funding for the banners, about $25,000 each year, as part of its December cuts. But Jay Lifson, executive director of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, asked council members to reconsider, saying the banners are a unique asset of the downtown.

Council members agreed the banners are beneficial, but some struggled with spending money on them when money is so tight. Falk then offered to pay for the banners using his "999 fund," an account each city department head receives to store up to $25,000 in unspent money from previous years.

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.