New CIP Budget Includes Upgrades for El Camino, Public Safety, and IT; Plans for Future Sports Facilities
The most exciting new public facility of 2014 is sure to be the Northside library opening in August.
But beyond that, other important new city projects are on the drawing board for the coming year. They’re significant not because of the amounts of money involved, Santa Clara Director of Public Works Rajeev Batra told the Council at the May 15 meeting, but because of their value to the community.
Santa Clara’s 2014-2015 Capital Improvement Project budget will drop 12 percent this year to $68 million. The city also has $618 million in continuing appropriations for projects that aren’t complete.
However, the city’s Authority Funds – Sports and Open Space Authority (SOSA), Stadium Authority, and Housing Authority – will see an increase of $5.1 million this year – that’s a 1,388 percent increase – reflecting sooner-than-anticipated returns from Levi’s Stadium. Batra also noted the Santa Clara has received about $12 million altogether from federal grants under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – one of President Barack Obama’s first official acts after taking office.
El Camino beautification projects will be making that thoroughfare more attractive in the coming year, as phase one of improvements at the Lawrence and El Camino intersection are completed in July. Also on the books for the coming year is new, decorative LED street lighting for El Camino; replacing the “yellow” sodium streetlights, some of which are more than 25 years old. The new lighting is brighter, more natural, and makes it easier to see at night. In addition, the decorative lights will add some sense of “place” and historicity for “the royal road.”
Santa Clara police will soon add something new to their uniforms: wearable cameras. “My peers have found that it reinforces professional conduct,” said Police Chief Mike Sellars, “and documents sequence of events, reduces liability, and citizen complaints.” Part of that project will be funded with $135,000 in grants.
The Fire Department will be implanting Phase 2 of its cardiac defibrillator/monitor replacement program. Among the new features is the ability to send data directly from the first responders to receiving staff in hospitals. “Our Fire Department emphasizes the importance of early CPR and intervention,” said Fire Chief Bill Kelly. “This year alone this machine has helped us save five people.”
The city’s information technology is taking a major step forward with a new Geographic Information System (GIS) that will deliver realtime information needed for a wide range of city functions. The system will increase information about electric poles, underground line, traffic flows, and storm drains, as well as public safety. For residents, the system will also enable a unified search of all city documents associated with an address, across city departments.
Mobility is also a top priority for the coming year for IT, said Santa Clara IT Director Gaurav Garg. A “Santa Clara Connect” mobile app is in the cards, which will allow residents to make service requests from a smartphone. Plus, the city’s websites will be “refreshed’ and made more mobile-friendly.
The Parks & Recreation Department is expediting the design and planning for additional, new soccer fields that they hope will be game-ready by May 2015. There are also plans to continue playground rehabilitation and replacement, improve the city’s information about the condition and diversity of city trees – the “tree inventory” – and continue replacement and habitat restoration efforts.
The project to replace the International Swim Center will take a step forward this year with a design and feasibility study. To replace the 47 year-old pool complex, city officials are exploring capital campaigns with the Santa Clara Swim Club and the Aquamaids, partnerships with the Swim Hall of Fame, and other public-private partnerships.
Five Year Budget Forecast Shows Steady Growth, But General Fund Deficits Back in 2019-20
Santa Clara’s five year forecast shows revenue growing slightly ahead of expenditures – even without the $13 million former redevelopment agency lease revenue that remains tied up in a dispute with the county. If any of these revenues return to the city, the budget picture would improve further.
Without that, in 2019-20 the budget will have a $1.6 million deficit because expenses are expected to grow slightly faster than revenue. At the same time, however, the emergency reserve is expected to grow to $18 million by 2020.
Salaries and pension costs drive the city’s expenditures, and contributions to the state retirement program, CalPERS, continue to grow sharply, as a result of the market losses in the early 2000s, benefit increases in the mid-2000s, more conservative forecasting for returns, and retirees’ longer life spans.
In the decade between 2004 and 2014, pension costs more than doubled to $25.7 million. By 2020, those costs are expected to increase to $43.2 million – more than two and a half times the cost in 2010 – and make up 21 percent of the general fund budget.
For more information on the Santa Clara budget, visit http://santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=220. You can not only look at the current budget, but those of the last five years, and see how the picture has changed over time.