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Council approves balanced Santee budget with planned salary increases

The city of Santee approved a proposed $53 million operating budget for 2022-23 during the June 8 City Council meeting.

The two largest sources of city income stem from property taxes and sales taxes. Out of the $53 million budget, $23.2 million comes from property taxes and makes up 43% of general fund revenues.

Sales tax income is projected at $17.9 million and makes up 30% of general fund revenues.

Finance Director Tim McDermott said the budget is balanced for this year and as projected out over the next five years.

“We actually survived COVID relatively well in the area of sales tax, better than expected. We’re a little bit cautious about what is coming at us down the road,” McDermott said.

Although some of the city’s maintenance costs increased this past year due to inflation, McDermott said many renewable contracts do have Consumer Price Index-based renewable clauses which have helped keep city costs steady.

About 32% of the general fund goes toward public safety including fire and life safety such as emergency medical service calls while law enforcement eats up an additional 32%. Development services and community services each use about 11% of the budget. The remaining 14% is split between other uses.

Two new positions are slated to increase personnel costs: a Marketing Manager position and a Building Official. Specific positions and salary bands will be determined at a later date and will be approved by City Council.

Business Services also asked for a Management Analyst position partially funded through County Service Area 69 as the city ceases to utilize CSA 69 and self-governs emergency services. At the same time, one management analyst position would be eliminated in favor of parttime administrative assistance, and one accountant would be reclassified as a senior accountant.

Personnel costs would also increase to accommodate a 3.5% salary increase for Santee firefighters and all general and management employees.

The general fund includes $25,000 to support adopted military units, an initiative Santee has backed since Sept. 11 by partnering with local military groups for local events as well as over $683,000 for City Attorney costs, $50,000 for the City Manager’s office to work with website update consultants and over $800,000 for the Information Technology department to hire a part-time support position and pay for software maintenance and licensing.

“I know there were some pretty significant retirements and new faces but when I read this budget, it almost read like a story with the accomplishments of every department and then the goals and objectives we’ve talked about over the past year,” City Councilwoman Laura Koval said.

Koval also said she’s glad to see the city included some diversity, equity and inclusion-related activities in community events. However, the $25,000 allotted for DEI efforts in 2021- 22 does not exist in the 2022-23 budget.

However, with a new administrative department head in place, Koval said new ideas might come up that could be worth bringing up before the full fiscal year has passed. She also said it might be financially beneficial to combine job duties between administrative assistants, so employees are cross-trainer and possibly more productive.

Councilmember Dustin Trotter said the city is blessed by sales tax increases and property taxes but it’s tough to absorb some of the large figures involved in a balanced city budget.

Mayor John Minto asked for more information on how a Memorandum of Understanding between La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove, El Cajon and unincorporated East County regarding homeless shelters would function within the budget.

City Manager Marlene Best said city staff will bring ideas back to council for a vote.

The budget was approved unanimously.

Council approves balanced Santee budget with planned salary increases

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Source: East County Californian

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