A balanced budget is the nexus of a successful year for a municipal government.

How we get there is somewhat akin to the admonition about watching sausage being made.

If you observe the process you wouldn't want to eat it.

Well, that is not exactly correct, but it does communicate that the process is not particularly appetizing.

To achieve the goal of a balanced budget, you simply have to sharpen your pencils and crunch or compress numbers originally the size of Mount Diablo to fit into a shoe box.

By way of comparison, it might have been easier for Nik Wallenda, American high-wire artist, to cross Niagara Falls via a tightrope on June 15, 2012, than to accomplish our task.

Additionally, we are not only focused on fiscal year 2014-2015, but also mindful that we are concerned about a forecast for the next 10 years.

That is why the budget season involves several weeks of planning and addressing issues of appropriate expenditures in the face of revenue or funding deficits.

The challenge is how we provide the optimum level of service to meet the needs of our citizens with the available revenue.

I want to assure you that we approach this chore, or balancing job if you will, in a positive manner.

Please permit a historical perspective. Concord's population in 1905, was 600. By 1948, it had grown to 6,500.

Today, our estimated population is 125,000.

We are the largest city in Contra Costa County.


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The estimated budget we are struggling to balance is $81.4 million.

Yes, it is a daunting task, but compare the budget projections made in 2007, that our budget this year was estimated to be at $98 million.

That was not simply a wild shot in the dark. It was based upon past performances, revenue projections and proposed governmental services.

It was also based upon the continuation of our Redevelopment Agency, the expectation that the state of California would not find other creative ways to take our projected revenues.

Over the past 20 years, this has cost us $78 million.

Add to this mix increases in CalPERS retirement rates, increases in health care costs, and the yet-to-be determined impact of the Affordable Health Care Act, underfunded maintenance and infrastructure needs, and the most unwelcome elephant in the living room -- unfunded long-term liabilities -- and you begin to realize that a tightrope walk above Niagara Falls might be a piece of cake.

Frankly, I deplore the continual threats of budget cuts.

I know that improving staff efficiency in providing services is an ongoing goal of our senior management.

Moreover, there is no substitute for the need to market Concord as a business-friendly city with bountiful amenities. Fortunately, there are ample commercial and light-industrial spaces available.

We have an excellent Economic Development Department that is working diligently to attract new business and industry.

Concord is serviced by two BART stations, an ample housing inventory from single family to high-density housing, outstanding venues for entertainment ranging from our local Todos Santos Plaza to our world-class Concord Pavilion.

We are enormously proud of our public safety, public works, recreational and other city services.

Yes, we have a great deal to offer, and yet insufficient revenue -- like the proverbial Sword of Damocles -- looms over our budget process, and threatens to prevent us from providing the services that are essential to fulfilling the promise inherent in the many assets I have just enumerated.

The answer, fortunately or unfortunately, is simple. A slower-than-hoped-for economic recovery has prevented our revenue expectations to keep up with our expenditure requirements.

Concord voters recognized the dire effects of our catastrophic recession. In November 2010, they resoundingly passed Measure Q, the half-cent sales tax increase.

No one had a crystal ball foretelling how long it would take for the economy to recover.

Because of that we asked the voters for a five-year sunset on the sales tax increase.

The City Council and the staff has done an excellent job in being good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars.

Our Measure Q Committee, chaired by former Mayor Guy Bjerke, has been diligent in its oversight and assurance that all Measure Q funds have been spent wisely and pursuant to all campaign promises.

Services have been provided that would have been cut. We have built our financial services back to an acceptable level.

Again, no one could accurately forecast the rate of economic recovery. As stated above, Measure Q has been of inestimable value to Concord, but the recovery rate of our economy has been a disappointment.

Therefore, it is with a hopeful heart that I am urging that we give the voters the opportunity to recognize that we need an additional five-year period to complete the tasks we have initiated, allowing more time for economic development that will give us the revenue we need to continue our current level of services and take advantage of the growth opportunities near at hand.

Budget workshops are scheduled during the next few weeks.

I hope you will be able to attend and voice your opinions.

By working together we can realize our full potential and be the city in which we are proud to live and raise our families.

Tim Grayson is the mayor of Concord. Contact him at citycouncil@ci.concord.ca.us.