The Highland City Council approved budgets of $89 million and $58 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, reflecting the city’s work plan of “aggressive” investment in capital improvement programs to maintain and enhance the city’s infrastructure in the coming years.
The budget was unanimously approved during the council’s June 11 meeting.
Public works and public safety again make up the majority of the city’s budget ⎯ a combined 94.6 percent in 2019-20 and 91.5 percent in 2020-21.
Of the city’s budgeted $89,031,690 in 2019-20 expenditures, 74.2 percent, approximately $66 million, will be spent on public works. Approximately $18 million, 20.4 percent, will be spent on public safety.
Of the city’s $58,280,755 in budgeted expenditures for 2020-21, 58 percent, about $33.7 million is budgeted for public works and 33.5 percent, $19.5 million, for public safety.
The city has budgeted for numerous, major community capital programs in the next two years as it plans to invest more than $200 million during its five-year capital improvement program.
The grants and funds related to the bridge and interchange improvements at Base Line and State Route 210 make up the majority of the $30.7 million difference in the expenditures between the two years.
City revenues were projected to be approximately $74 million in 2019-20 and $47 million in 2020-21. In 2019 intergovernmental revenues will make up 64.2 percent of the city's revenues and property taxes an additional 19 percent.
Funding for the large, multiyear project will mostly be spent in 2019-20, the first year of the project, explained City Manager Joe Hughes.
According to the budget report, there will be approximately $25.9 million in costs relating to the SR-210/Base Line interchange and an additional $1.1 million for the Base Line bridge in 2019-20. In 2020-21, costs for those projects will drop to $5.2 million for the bridge.
The city will be funding those projects with Measure I funds, about $22.7 million in 2019-20 and $260,000 in 2020-21.
Other major projects budgeted for in the next two years include $3.65 million for Boulder Avenue improvements, $1.99 million for an Orange Street bridge project, $3.1 million for Victoria Avenue/SR-210 interchange improvements, $9.73 million for Victoria Avenue improvements and $5.16 million for the Third and Fifth streets corridor project.
There are also 29 projects with costs of less than $500,000 budgeted for in the next two years.
The budget for police services, contracted with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, is $10.58 million in 2019-20 and $11.11 million in 2020-21, up from $9.93 million in 2018-19. The city added a deputy position in February 2018 and a sergeant position in January 2019.
The budget for fire and paramedic services, contracted with Cal Fire, is $6.97 million in 2019-20 and $7.78 million in 2020-21, up from $5.75 million in 2018-19. City staff noted that, historically, the contract with Cal Fire has come in 15-20 percent under budget.
In connection to the budget, the city council also approved a 3 percent increase in salaries for city employees (excluding interns) for 2019-20. This will mean an increase of $86,728 in salaries and $16,945 in benefits paid by the city next year. A total of approximately $4.7 million of the 2019-20 budget, 5.3 percent, will go to salaries and benefits. This will rise to $4.9 million, 8.4 percent, in 2020-21.
Noticeably absent from this year’s budget is funding for the Highland Area Chamber of Commerce.
The city had been supporting the chamber with funding for more than 20 years. About $16,000 was budgeted for the chamber last year.
According to Hughes, the city originally began supporting the chamber with the idea that the chamber would eventually stand on its own. This year, a majority of the city council felt that, more than 20 years later, it was time to quit funding the chamber.
This decision did not sit well with former councilwoman Jody Scott who entreated with the council not to defund the chamber, during the meeting’s public comment period.
Scott asked that the city continue to support the organization that does so much to promote the city of Highland by organizing Discover Highland, Tastes of the Town and Fourth of July parade for the city. If it was a matter of money, she suggested the city reduce its support of the Highland YMCA and the Highland circuit of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, which she feels promotes Redlands more than Highland.