Finances Look Better, Future Still A Challenge

LA MESA -- The agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting suggests a quick and pretty routine meeting.
The police report is apt to show some slight increases in minor crime -- perhaps attributed to the return of many parolees to San Diego communities. Police Chief Ed Aceves, soon to be replaced as he retires, will have presided over a period in which the crime rate was as low as anyone in memory can recall. Call it the Pax Aceves.
The city's finances are looking about as rosy as they have in a decade as well.
The Finance Report will include word of rising sales taxes and recovering reserve balances.
Still, amid all this good news there are challenges that remain. The city's finances are still largely balanced on the back of the 3/4 percent sales tax increase approved in 2009 and the recovering stock market has made pension obligations look better, but they remain size-able and continue to pose a long-term threat to the city.
As the city's finances improve, it may be farsighted for the city leaders to develop a longer-term strategy now for the eventual sun-setting of Prop. L. Perhaps those funds should be now dedicated to reduction of long-term obligations or project investments that can grow the city's tax base.
La Mesa, like all California cities, still work in a state with an unstable system for funding the state government. That puts the local municipalities -- and its school districts -- at risk of the kind of spasmodic budget fluctuations of the seven years.

And, with the state having stripped the redevelopment process as a source of economic -- and tax base -- growth and revenue for local cities, trying to spur long-term economic growth (and the subsequent growth in tax base and sales tax revenues) remains a challenge for local governments like La Mesa.

These are difficult, even arcane issues. They are the types of topics former City Councilman Ernie Ewin toiled away at in the background. How the new council handles them -- the creativity and energy brought to them -- will have a wide impact on the city's future.

The Council meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the chambers on Allison Avenue. CLICK HERE for the full agenda with backup materials.

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