By Zohd Khan
Mayor Gloria Partida and City Manager Mike Webb discussed the overall financial state of the City of Davis during an open question and answer session.
The meeting covered a variety of topics, including citywide expenditures, homelessness, the COVID-19 pandemic and Healthy Davis Together.
To begin, Mike Webb offered a presentation of citywide expenditures, which he considered “one of the most important things our city does.”
Currently, as of the latest fiscal year, the entire city budget consists of approximately $219 million in various funds. As Webb explained, the city recently switched to a two-year budget cycle, which means that Davis adopts a new budget every two years.
These changes were said to allow Davis “to focus more on long-term planning and also to be more efficient with the creation of the budget document.”
The greatest source of city funding is currently Enterprise Funds, which amounts to $66.1 million (or 33 percent) of city expenditures. Specific enterprise activities include water service, sewage services and transportation.
The next greatest portion of funding, the “general fund,” constitutes $64.9 million of the Davis budget. Webb stated that the “vast majority of our time and policy discussions” focus on deciding where to allocate the money from these funds.
Property tax accounts for approximately $24 million of the revenue in the general fund. This amount has increased by 5.6 percent from the previous year, which fortunately shows that Davis property values have continued to hold strong despite the emergence of COVID-19.
Sales tax, on the other hand, has decreased in overall contribution to the general fund during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales tax currently contributes $14 million to the general fund, which is 15 percent below the previous year’s contribution.
One positive fact shared by Webb was that “every cent” of the $7.4 million obtained through the Davis Sales Tax Measure stays in Davis. Webb explained this allows for a considerable chunk of revenue to be readily available for city officials to work with.
Brief details on city expenditures (what funds are used for) were also provided in the presentation.
Webb revealed that $19.7 million are spent on supporting the police and other law enforcement services. In addition, park and community Services nearly matched the fire department in total expenditure, as both near in at $12 million.
Webb then shifted greater focus to COVID-19’s impact on the general fund revenue. Webb explained that “we [the city] had to pivot very quickly and very significantly in our budget preparation” as the priority had turned to managing budget reductions.
As the data projected, there may be a $22 million reduction in revenue over the next seven years. Webb clarified that this was just a “guesstimate” that city staff had reached with the help of economic consultants.
For the next portion of the meeting, Mayor Partida discussed a variety of topics, including the Healthy Davis Together Initiative.
Healthy Davis Together (HDT) is a joint partnership between the city of Davis and UC Davis to combat the spread of COVID-19. One recently implemented measure is the suppliance of personal protective equipment (PPE) to local businesses free of charge.
In addition, three testing sites for COVID-19 have been opened and HDT partners have offered reimbursement grants as well as gift card incentive programs for those who receive testing.
Mayor Partida also emphasized the importance of testing in Davis, as she revealed that 51 percent of infections in Davis have been asymptomatic. Consequently, HDT has strived to spread public awareness amongst the community through advertisements and other social media outlets.
The mayor expressed great optimism for the initiative, stating it has been “one of the brightest silver linings in this whole pandemic.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Partida covered the topic of homelessness in Davis. She admitted that we are unfortunately “still struggling with the homeless population,” but that the city has a number of ideas to further address this issue.
One specific action, which was initiated by former mayor Brett Lee, is the extension of the Daytime Respite Center. The center serves as a place for the homeless to access basic needs, whether it be washing their clothes or having a place to rest.
Most importantly, the staff in the facility often work to connect people with social security or food stamps, which in time is intended to get the unhoused community back on their feet.