$1-Million Jackpot for Rancho Santa Margarita

Ka-ching! City expects to end its fiscal year with a surplus for the first time since 2009. Officials also honor four local students.

After several years of budget blues, Rancho Santa Margarita has finally hit the jackpot.

When the fiscal year ends on June 30, city officials expect to have a $1-million surplus--enough to buy five venti Starbucks lattes for every man woman and child in town.

Or officials could use it to run the city. Although free lattes sound nice, the educated guess is they'll spend the loot on government stuff instead.

News of this year's budget bliss came during Wednesday night's City Council meeting. Paul Boyer, director of administrative services, said the lion’s share of extra funds comes from two one-time transfers to city coffers.

One is $500,000 from the city’s capital improvement projects fund. The other is $437,550 from the sale of utility credits to Laguna Beach, according to Boyer.

Even without those transfers, Boyer said, the city would net $65,000.

“We’re almost back to even, where we started,” Boyer told the City Council. “That’s all good news, for the most part.”

Boyer credited the conservative decisions of the council and city staff with reversing the city’s downward financial trends.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year, RSM began posting general fund losses, to the tune of about $3 million. Boyer attributed most of that decrease to the $2.56-million purchase of Chiquita Ridge, where the city plans to build a large sports park.

This year's projected surplus -- $1,002,174 below revenues of $16,091,581 -- is the first since then.

Looking ahead, Boyer predicted sales and property tax revenue would increase, but said he is neither pessimistic nor optimistic about the state and national economy.

“We’re still getting a lot of mixed signals,” Boyer said.

Mayor Tony Beall said the council should continue spending conservatively, especially in light of state budget problems.

“I think we have to hope for the best and plan for the worst,” Beall said.

Councilman Jerry Holloway agreed: “Locally, we’re insulating ourselves against any damage from state and federal decisions.”

Councilman Jesse Petrilla was absent Wednesday, because he is training with the California National Guard in Kentucky until mid-June.

Other Business

The City Council held it, who resigned earlier this year to care for his ailing parents.

The council also honored four local students:

  • Carli Fawcett, an eighth-grader at RSM Intermediate School, for being “an excellent Peer Assistance Leadership Member”—someone who welcomes new students into RSM intermediate—as well as for donating her babysitting money toward Pennies for Patients.
  • Ryan Dana, an eighth-grader at RSM Intermediate, for his excellent grades and his willingness to take difficult classes, including honors geometry, and for his service as a Peer Assistant Leadership member.
  • Cade MacLean, a sixth-grader at Robinson Ranch Elementary School, for being a member of the principal's honor roll and for participating in a church mission trip to Rwanda. He was also honored for sportsmanship on his baseball team, which is heading to a nationwide tournament soon.
  • Tiffany Shafer, a sixth-grader at Robinson Ranch, for her strong study habits, outstanding citizenship, principal’s honor roll membership, and for serving as ASB president.

To read their certificates of recognition click here.

Next up: A special meeting of the City Council will be held at 7 p.m. April 17 in council chambers to discuss candidates for Thompson’s vacant seat.

RSM Dad April 14, 2011 at 10:40 PM
I observed this discussion last night and found it interesting. What it told me was that our previous city council, including Beall, Holloway, Thompson, Blais and Thor did an outstanding job in managing the city through the most significant recession of our time. We are far better off than many other cities. What was lost on the discussion was that the city had budgeted to dip into its reserves to the tune of $377,000 on top of the budgeted transfer that Boyer mentioned. But as it turns out, that deficit was wiped clean, and we are $65,000 to the good without the budgeted transfer. That means an actual budget swing in the positive direction of $442,000. The utility credit money was never in the budget so it is icing on the cake to help restore the reserves that were taken out in previous years. I think our city owes a lot to the experience and wisdom of that city council which is now short 3 of those people. I question whether Baric or Petrilla have the abilities yet to understand how to manage a city in this environment. So far all they have shown is their tendency toward being political and playing those political games that do not help this city at all. So we can only hope that the council picks wisely when they select Thompson's replacement.
Marie April 15, 2011 at 02:27 AM
When are we going to get rid of these water bonds that I have been paying for 18 years.


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