Our economy is not yet out of the woods, but signs of progress are everywhere in Santa Cruz this year, including a stabilized City budget, a fully funded police force, and economic development projects bringing jobs and vitality.
The much-anticipated Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Center opened its doors to the public in July, adding another family-friendly attraction to our Main Beach area. And other important economic development projects are underway.
The City is working all-out to bring a new multi-use arena to downtown, builders are putting the finishing touches on the 200-room Hotel Paradox, and fashion retailer Forever 21 is preparing for a grand opening on Pacific Avenue this month.
After a decade of relentless financial cutbacks, 2012 has been a hopeful year for the City budget. This summer, for the first time since 2006, the Santa Cruz City Council approved a status quo budget with no new cuts to services, programs, or workers. Best of all, a looming $8 million General Fund operating deficit has been trimmed to a more manageable $3.7 million level for Fiscal Year 2013.
We have every reason to believe that the remaining deficit can be eliminated with a combination of reserves, efficiency gains, and continued economic growth.
While still lean, this year’s City budget provides for a fully staffed Police Department, and makes permanent the security guard program that has bolstered patrols downtown, and along the San Lorenzo River Levee.
Further, despite ongoing furloughs, City workers have continued to tackle new projects, using innovation and community support to get things done.
The Police Department has used inexpensive new technology to focus enforcement on crime hotspots, while giving the public unprecedented access to crime maps, alerts, and statistics. Community volunteers have pitched in to help improve our well-worn City parks, turning out by the dozens to build bike paths, install disc golf equipment and pick up trash.
And thanks to voters, roads throughout the City are being repaired with Measure H utility tax funds.
City officials have tackled important new environmental initiatives, banning single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam products, and working steadily to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions.
These successes are the result of a balanced approach to repair the ravages of the Great Recession: a blend of budget cuts and new taxes, pension reform and wage concessions, and a determined push for appropriate economic development.
Santa Cruz has been through tough times in recent years, but we’ve never lost sight of the values that our residents hold dear: community safety, environmental sustainability, support for local businesses and jobs, financial stability and sustainability, and well-maintained facilities and infrastructure. You can learn more about the City’s progress in achieving these outcomes by visiting www.cityofsantacruz.com/councilgoals.
We are picking up momentum, and the progress has been invigorating. Please take a few moments to read this report, and let us know what you think. We want you to be as proud of your City as we are.