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City Council OKs $29.4 million budget

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It may have been the quickest council meeting ever.

The Sonoma City Council got together for a special meeting Monday evening with the express purpose of approving the city budget for fiscal year 2014-15. They did so in a 5-0 vote, with minimal comment from either council members – who had already picked over the budget at previous meetings – or the public.

“And we were outta there in 21 minutes,” said Mayor Tom Rouse on Thursday.

Rouse wondered aloud during the meeting – and again on Thursday – at the fact that local residents will turn out by the dozens for issues like dogs in the park or pink doors on the Plaza, but not for approval of the city’s $29.4 million budget.

“You must truly trust us, or you don’t care,” Rouse concluded.

What they approved was a total operating and capital budget of $29,414,975, as submitted by City Manager Carol Giovanatto. City administrators said the budget was balanced, with allocations both large ($2,150,964 for streets and capital improvements) and small ($10,317 for the Maysonnave property).

Although a very minor tweak was made in the final days – an extra $27,600 was taken from general fund reserves to go to the city’s “tier 1” nonprofits – overall this year’s budget process went smoothly. Council members had already taken an in-depth look at the coming budget during a three-and-a-half-hour study session held the previous Monday.

The council then called the special meeting for Monday, June 30 in order to approve the budget, fulfilling its policy of doing so before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

In a letter to council members, Giovanatto stated that, “Over the past several years, Sonoma has weathered the impacts of the downturn of the economy, loss of redevelopment and reduction in the city’s investment portfolio interest earnings. Surviving those impacts was only possible through the council’s sound fiscal policies, management of expenditures, the passage of a local sales tax measure, the formation of the Tourism Improvement District, the resurgence in travel and tourism, and the recently revitalized real estate market.”

Due to these factors, she said, revenue has grown steadily since 2010, allowing the city to restore services while also focusing on other benefits such as “balancing city character.”

The full budget can be seen at sonomacity.org.