Westminster’s finances are looking brighter than expected, thanks to an upswing in tax revenues and new automation projects that make the city run more efficiently.
Sales tax revenues ticked up 5 percent, due in part to new businesses like Orange Coast Infiniti and McMahon’s RV, said Assistant City Manager Chet Simmons. Property tax revenues also inched up 1 percent.
“It’s a great weight off everyone’s shoulders,” Simmons said of the state of the city’s 2012-13 budget. “We are coming in better than we anticipated.”
Even so, after grappling with tough economic conditions for years, the news isn’t all rosy. The city still faces a more than $2 million shortfall—the difference between the $45.5 million it takes in and the $48 million it spends.
But that gap is better than last summer, when the city was $10.6 million in the hole. It was forced to lay off 70 employees, slash budgets and tap reserve funds. Reserves now stand at a healthy $24.8 million, according to Simmons.
Besides belt-tightening, the city has looked for ways to automate where possible and work more efficiently. As a result, residents can now pay their water bills online and soon will be able to submit plans through an online system.
Simmons said the city continues to search for ways to work smarter.
“We’re almost there, but we’re not all the way there yet,” he said.