Working on a municipal budget is high on my least-favorite things to do list.

This was not always the case. There was a time, which older people will remember, when revenue sources easily covered our service needs, including cost-of-living raises for a full complement of municipal employees.

Now, even after a significant reduction in personnel, we struggle with decisions about essential services, curtailing popular programs, outsourcing jobs previously held by city employees, and meeting the basic cost-of-living increases for our employees.

Projections about the adequacy of revenue sources over a 10-year period are enough to drive me to distraction:

  • Our assumptions are subject to modification

  • We can underestimate peaks and valleys

  • Numbers always change

  • Once we get past the "near-term," it's a crap shoot.

    Yikes!

    Actually, we do not look too bad in the near-term. Our anticipated revenues are in the ballpark to meet our proposed expenditures, recognizing that additional tweaking will take place. (Recalling that the term "tweak" means to pinch and pull), I am hopeful this process can be conducted amicably.

    At least one of our City Council's priority focus areas is going to be problematical. That is the category of infrastructure maintenance.

    We are recommending an increase in our sewer fund over the next two years, and thereafter additional serious increases are not only highly likely, they are guaranteed.

    Whenever sewer rates are discussed, we are not only referring to our relationship with the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, but also our own sewer system requirements which are apart from funds going to the district.

    Most of us recognize that the term "deferred maintenance" really means no maintenance. Our sewer system is aging and in need of a financial transfusion. Upgrades and repairs have not kept pace with maintenance requirements.

    Sorry. It's a fact of life. The problem needs to be addressed.

    I am focused on our long-term financial stability. That is the problem uppermost in my mind when I asked for the honor of continuing to serve our great city. We need to come up with something dramatic to change the equation that makes long-range forecasting such a nightmare.

    I still believe that the opportunities inherent in the former Naval Weapons Station property will come to the rescue, but I fear it will be at the end of that currently unhelpful 10-year forecast.

    In the coming weeks I will present a plan that I am hopeful can be inserted between the "near-term" and the end of the 10-year forecast. I am seeking a solution to the problem that will be of a long-term nature and will enable us to address that boogeyman entitled unfunded liabilities.

    If we are successful, Concord can be the leader in recapturing the lost art of easily balanced budgets. Stay tuned.

    Dan Helix is the mayor of Concord. Email him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.