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The Doctor is In:
A Prescription For Fiscal Discipline

December 2008 | Dr. Bettina Experton, Chair, Del Mar Finance Committee


As a former oncologist, turned Public Health and Preventive Medicine physician, teaching and working on health care policy matters, and entrepreneur of 20 years, like many I believe than “one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. That is even more true for financial and economic matters, and in these dreary times we have to apply preventive measures in an entrepreneurial and creative way…a new “Del Mar way” adapted to our times which most of us can subscribe to and deliver on.

The $3.8 million three-year loan the City recently secured to be able to meet the purchasing terms of the acquisition of the Shores property is simply buying the City some time, at an additional debt service cost, to assume this new multi-million debt.

The task at hand now is not to add more debt to our balance sheet, but to raise more revenue while monitoring and cutting unnecessary expenses. Simply put, the charter of the time for the new Council and the Community at large is to responsibly take control of our City’s destiny with strict fiscal discipline in order to best weather the severe economic storm which is taking the entire country. Drastically falling sales tax, weak TOT revenue, more retail stores closing in our downtown require swift reactive and preventive action. Here are some of the City’s Finance Committee recommendations:

On the revenue side:

Support as quickly as possible downtown redevelopment. There is no time to wait for a long 2-year-plus Specific Plan process, at a high tax payer cost and which may not allow individual property owners to develop their properties in an economically feasible manner. We all can and must come to the necessary zoning changes, to esthetically revive our downtown within months and not years. On January 12, a joint meeting of the City Council and Finance Committee (FC) will present two concrete approaches to get the job done, and let’s all rally behind the most cost-effective solution.

With the potential TOT increase now allowed by the public vote, let’s apply any increase authorized by the Council to mainly pay for downtown revitalization.
Let’s not sit any longer on the now two-plus year old parking plan the FC developed to generate over $2 million in revenue, and at a bare minimum let’s offer on a voluntary basis the City-wide paid parking permit we advised for free parking in metered places and additional allowed parking time limits in the downtown.

On the expense side:

Let’s support and encourage our staff and Council for the City to be more cost-effective in delivering the public services we need: streamlining administrative processes, cutting down on unnecessary/redundant public meetings, and using consultant services parsimoniously.

Let’s periodically review, prioritize and determine the “just price” of large capital infrastructure projects, whether it’s the new lifeguard center or a sidewalk project.
Applying for new infrastructure State bonds and new Federal grants for the right project at the right place: i.e. for streetscape in our downtown.

With the economic crisis we are all living as a nation, let’s all rise to the occasion to seize a real opportunity to revive our City.



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