City to city: The revenue edition
So last week I did a piece comparing our city’s budget to a similar size city’s, in an effort to broaden the conversation about how our cash-strapped Island spends its dollars. I had originally intended to focus primarily on the services folks have talked about, including public safety and administration. But some interesting questions popped up that I thought I’d take a stab at answering.
A big question was how the revenue flows in each city. And this one’s got some interesting answers.
Nearly 40 percent of Redwood City’s general fund revenue comes from property taxes, compared to our 31 percent. Their sales tax revenue is $19.4 million, compared to our $5.7 million.
So if our general funds are relatively close in value (with theirs at $82.5 million to our $75.9 million, give or take library, planning and some other services we don’t include), how do we make up the difference? By taxing the crap out of ourselves, and by pulling in money from city enterprise services (think golf, ferry and Alameda Municipal Power) and other agencies.
A whopping 26 percent of our general fund budget is expected to come from other taxes and fees this year, including $4.1 million from our (pre-Proposition P) property transfer tax (though they’re now expecting to take in less than that) and $9.1 million in utility users tax, which Redwood City uses instead for capital improvements. And we’re contributing almost three times the amount that city does for licenses and permits.
Alameda is also balancing its general fund on money from other agencies, including nearly $6 million in money from the state to replace the vehicle license fee money we would have got before Gov. Schwarzenegger eliminated a scheduled fee increase. Redwood City’s general fund budget shows just about $1 million from that bucket.
But we’re also pulling in money from city-run agencies like Alameda Power and the Chuck Corica Golf Complex – enough to help put some of those agencies in the red. The golf complex, which is slated to contribute $306,451 to the general fund this year, was on track at the beginning of the year to lose around $700,000; our sewer fund is slated to be more than $2 million in the hole this year, with $641,375 going into the general fund (though this one seems to be sitting on a $40 million reserve). It’s also budgeted at around $922,000 worth of debt payments this year.
In contrast, Redwood City’s water and sewer services both appear to be in the black, with each contributing some money to city services (similar to our Alameda Power, which is on track to drop $2.8 million into the general fund this year).
If you’re looking for an update on these numbers, by the way, the city just released its second quarter financial report.