While Santa Clara’s 2021/22 – 2022/23 deficit budget isn’t what anyone hopes to see, it makes the budget impacts crystal clear — good, bad and ugly.
And there is some good news. Police officers and firefighters haven’t been cut. Planning has added staff to bring the City new property tax revenue faster.
On the other side of the ledger, Santa Clara residents will see cuts in popular programs like the Art & Wine Festival — which is cancelled this year — and services like street repairs.
Food, Housing Programs Maintain Funding, GHG Reduction Advances
Santa Clara’s commitment to food, rental assistance and small business services will stay whole, with $2 million budgeted for these services and grants.
The City also has over $36 million from federal and local grants for affordable housing projects — a few weeks ago the City received an additional federal grant of $6.1 million for affordable housing and homelessness programs.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction will get a boost this year by replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles ahead of schedule. Thanks to a Silicon Valley Power (SVP) grant the City will be able to “green” its fleet faster and reallocate over $1 million from the general fund. “It’s a win-win-win,” said Finance Director Kenn Lee.
The budget also allocates $50,000 for Diversity & Inclusion Task Force programs, which have yet to be defined.
Getting Revenue-Generating Development Projects Online Faster
In the long run, Santa Clara needs to increase its revenue at the same rate as its expenses, or face regular deficits, and property tax is one of cities’ most stable revenue sources.
A new Building Development Services fund will help close the gap for Santa Clara by funding four additional planning positions with developer fees — for example, for permits and sign-offs — to accelerate project sign-offs.
The Downtown Master Plan is still funded and moving ahead. The additional planning staff will help bring this project to fruition.
Police OK, Fire Cuts May Increase Response Time
The budget freezes Santa Clara Police Dept.’s open positions, but the department doesn’t anticipate significant impacts on service. The PD absorbed cuts in the previous budget adjustments last winter.
Fire Dept. cuts, however, may slow response times. Overtime cuts will reduce rescue and HazMat unit staffing, reallocating truck and engine companies from other needs to make up the difference. Mutual aid from surrounding cities may be called on more often, especially in case of a large-scale disaster.
The budget adds resiliency training for Fire Dept. staff to reduce personal impacts of stress and trauma, thereby improving performance and even saving lives.
Maintenance Slower for Physical, Digital Infrastructure
Cuts in the public works budget mean that residents can expect longer response times for just about everything: street repairs, traffic signs, complaints, inspections, traffic studies and calming measures, title document review and encroachment permits.
Maintenance of public buildings, streets and landscaping will be less frequent. However, money has been allocated for necessary health and safety improvements in City offices.
In IT, new systems and upgrades will be slower. Because these increase staff productivity, efficiency and service to the public, back office operations may take longer, as will preparing City Council agenda reports. Cyber security won’t be affected because there is one-time funding for this training.
Popular Programs Cancelled, Reduced
Residents will be disappointed to hear that Santa Clara’s popular Art & Wine Festival is cancelled this year — along with summer concerts, and the annual street dance, partly due to uncertainty about pandemic restrictions. In its place, the City plans a “family-friendly” half-day event in August or September.
The Art & Wine cancellation has the ancillary effect of cutting funding to community groups by about $100,000 — including one group that subsidizes low-income participants in Recreation Center programs.
Roberta Jones Junior Theater (RJJT) shows are cancelled indefinitely — although instructional classes continue. Ticket sales only cover about a third of RJJT’s performance costs.
Fewer hours and programs are slated at Santa Clara’s recreation facilities — Senior Center, Recreation Center, Youth Activity Center, skate park — including cuts to recreation programs for people with developmental disabilities (Therapeutic Recreation).
Adult sports programs are cut by about 25 percent, and the Junior Giants program is cut entirely.
Montague Swim Center will close — the City cites low usage in recent years — although the pools will be maintained. A subsidy for sports fields at unused Santa Clara Unified schools was dropped this year. As residents had very limited opportunities to use the fields, likely they won’t feel any impact.
Library Services Continue at Reduced Levels, Arts Grants Zeroed Out
Staff cuts at the City Central Library will allow services to be maintained at branch libraries. It’s unlikely services will return to pre-pandemic levels before 2022.
Virtual programs will continue, and the materials budget dropped slightly from $780,000 to $740,000. The contract for the Footsteps2Brilliance early bilingual literacy program won’t be renewed.
The budget axes $20,000 in grants to Santa Clara arts groups. This is a dramatic change as some groups, such as Santa Clara Ballet and Santa Clara Players, have been supported by the City for half a century. Visual art programs are also cancelled for at least the next year.
The Triton Museum of Art won’t take a big hit; principally because the terms of Robert Morgan’s $1 million grant to build the Triton Museum of Art require Santa Clara to significantly subsidize it. The museum’s budget was slightly reduced because there were no shows for over a year. *
Arts funding was moved to the Parks and Recreation budget last year.
The annual community grants budget remains at $100,000 the next two years, but it’s unclear if arts groups are now expected to apply for this money, which is under the discretion of the City Manager.
You can find the detailed impact of the proposed budget for each City Department at www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/departments-a-f/finance.
*Triton funding hasn’t changed since 2010, when its subsidy was reduced because of the 2008-2009 deficit. In real dollars that’s about a 20 percent cut since 2010.