PINOLE -- After several years of bleak economic news, the city's finances are showing gradual but steady improvement although serious difficulties remain, the finance director told the City Council this week.
Sales tax receipts and business license fee payments are up, and the local unemployment rate is lower than the state's and the nation's, said Richard Loomis, Pinole's finance director. But property tax revenues continued to decline -- by 3.4 percent in the current budget year -- in the aftermath of what Loomis termed "the Great Global Recession of 2008."
That recession hit Pinole hard. Since fiscal 2008-2009, city staff has downsized by 33 percent, to a projected 99 employees next fiscal year.
Loomis' comments were part of a financial status report for the third quarter of fiscal year 2012-2013.
At the start of the current fiscal year, the council adopted a balanced General Fund budget of $10.9 million, with an anticipated surplus of $280,000. That has been augmented with $125,000 in proceeds of a lawsuit settlement involving Contra Costa County property taxes in the wake of the statewide dissolution of redevelopment agencies in early 2012.
Pinole also expects to get slightly more than $500,000 a year as a share of Redevelopment Successor Agency tax allocations in coming years.
Other unanticipated revenue this year includes almost $58,000 more in sales taxes than forecast; $11,000 of real estate transfer tax receipts in excess of projections; and $20,346 more in business license receipts. Those amounts are partially offset by a shortage of $44,000 in secured property tax receipts compared with projections.
Expenditures are running according to projections, Loomis said, thanks in part to frugal actions by the City Council such as eliminating salary cost-of-living adjustments this year; freezing and capping the city's contributions for employee health insurance; and requiring that employees pay the entire employee share of contributions to the California Public Employment Retirement System.
Two years ago, the council also renegotiated the terms of a $2.5 million loan from the defunct Redevelopment Agency to the General Fund; the annual payment is $263,300.
City Manager Belinda Espinosa, reacting to Loomis' delivery of good news, said there is "light at the end of the tunnel."