Finance Director Says City Budget Has Hit Bottom

By Steven Tavares

Interim Finance Director Perry Carter hopes San Leandro has seen the worst of the treacherous Great Recession. Carter is set to officially retire at the end of this month. During his last finance meeting Tuesday afternoon, he offered “Things may not be getting better, but the good news is: we may have hit bottom.”

The city’s 2010-11 budget still features a nearly $3 million shortfall, but slightly higher than anticipated increases in revenue give Carter the impression the current budget estimates are coming in line with the economy. “We did better than what I thought in May,” said Carter. Deep cuts in expenditures over the past two years along with still-low revenues are allowing a “better match” for the city’s accounting for this fiscal year. Doing so, Carter says, will deter the finance department from making periodic adjustments throughout the year as occurred in the last year. “It’s not time to breakout the party favors,” said Carter, “but it’s better news.”

Carter said sales tax figures from the end of the last fiscal year of $17.827,000–not far off from the estimated $17.850,000 contained in the current budget–show “consumers aren’t dead.” The city’s sales tax increase known as Measure Z, if passed in November, could also positively help its cash flow. Carter did note, though, the city will likely confront yet another drop in property tax revenue as delinquencies continue to rise.

Nonetheless, many unknown factors still exists for the city, including the specter of a “double-dip” recession dragging the economy underwater again along with the still unresolved state budget situation in Sacramento. Councilman Jim Prola, a member of the finance committee along with Mayor Tony Santos and Councilwoman Diana Souza, thinks lawmakers will again grab money from the local level. “The budget is not settled and doesn’t look good,” he said. Two of the likely areas, he said, Sacramento could draw from its coffers reside in the redevelopment agency and gas tax revenue.

At the end of the meeting, Santos thanked the well-liked Carter for his service saying, “You have taken us through tough times. I personally appreciate it.” Carter then deferred the compliment to his staff.