June 1, 2023
Spring is finally here: just in time for summer. As with all cities and the county, it's budget time. This is a stressful time for every public official, since this is when we have to look straight into the face of limited resources and seemingly unlimited wants and needs and make often unpopular decisions.
What makes it even more difficult is that the community often insists on its wants, when the Council's first priority is needs. It is challenging to look the community in the proverbial eye and say "I'm sorry, we can't give you what you want." Such was the difficult decision to eliminate the preschool program run by our Recreation Services Department. We love our families. We love our employees. But there were fatal flaws in the program, including a building that is long past its useful life and will be removed as soon as possible, underenrollment, and a perpetual search for childcare employees. It just wasn't possible to provide that service anymore. We know how disappointing that is to our 44 children served, and the staff who takes them under their wing each day. We had to make a tough and unpopular decision. As business owners, I'm sure you can understand.
Due to staff capacity issues, we were unable to finish several capital improvement projects last year. They will be done in the future, but there are only so many hours in the day. This gave us a silver lining of excess reserves, so the Council has directed that those funds go straight into pavement maintenance. We have a HUGE unfunded liability in our pavement program, and the Council wisely chose to commit as much funding there as possible, including the excess reserves. It is not enough though! We need triple that amount annually just to keep the streets the way they are.
Thank you for your continued support as we make tough decisions. I will always try to prioritize streets and infrastructure first, as they are the most expensive liability we have and are exponentially more expensive as they degrade. It's the most fiscally responsible place to put your money when we have a choice.
Let us enjoy some sunshine together, and I look forward to our next update when summer is in full swing and the festival season is upon us.
Caren Ray Russom
Mayor, City of Arroyo Grande