Making it through? Highlights of Walnut Creek’s budget reflects economic challenges, successes

The City Council is expected to adopt its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2009 fiscal year (which ended June 30) at itsTuesday night meeting.

The 188-page document highlights the challenges the city faced last year, and will continue to face this year. It also notes ideas for tackling those challenges, as well as some successes that might surprise some residents, particularly on the question of that “damn library” and whether investing in arts and recreation is good for the city.

I tried to pick through all its pages, but since I’m not a budget and finance person I may have missed some interesting little details. Feel free to pore through this document yourself and add or dispute what I found to be highlights. Basically:

The reports says:

Almost all City revenues have declined substantially since the adoption of the 2008-10 operating Budget in June 2008. Sales tax revenue in fiscal year 2008-2009 was $18.5 million, a decrease of 8 percent over the amount received in the prior year primarily due to the slowdown in auto and retail markets. Together with declines in property tax revenue and fees and charges collected by the city for services, total revenues were approximately $4 million below initial projections for 2008-09 and are expected to finish $9 million below initial projections for 2009-10.

Total Revenues: “$82 million, of which $27 million were derived from Governmental Activities, $2 million were derived from Business-type Activities and $53 million from General Revenues Existing reserves were used to cover an additional $1 million of expenditures.”

Total Expenses: “$83 million, of which Governmental Activities incurred $81 million and Business-type Activities incurred $2 million (see tables 2 and 5 for additional information).”


That “Damn Library.” Sorry, library supporters, I’m not taking any position on the library when I refer to it this way. I’m just honoring readers, for whom referring to it this way, has become something of a Crazy inside joke.

Anyway, the news about this budgeted $42 million project. Despite concerns, controversies, etc., the city expects to complete its new library on time and within budget. The city has so far spent around $23 million, and has $17 million left to spend.

Surprise No. 2: Arts and recreation are good, very good, for Walnut Creek: In a year when revenues declined in most areas (sales, property tax, state revenues, including vehicle license fees, and city license and permit fees), one sector proved to be a money-maker: Arts and recreation.

Sure, the city’s spending on arts and recreation increased $324,000, or 2 percent, from the previous year. This was due to increased salaries and benefit and other costs. And the city had to pour money into arts and recreation because more people were taking Civic Arts and recreation classes and going to see shows at the Lesher Center.

Notably, ticket sales at the Lesher Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, continued strong, bucking the trend of other performing arts organizations hurting in tough economic Times. Charges for tickets and fees for classes and other programs increased $249,000 from the prior year.

Not such a surprise: The other money maker. Increased parking rates at meters also helped bring in an additional $233,000 (5%) from the previous year.


In 2010 and beyond, the goals include:

  • Continuing to enhance the vitality of downtown
  • Oversee a comprehensive cost allocation, fees and charges study
  • Adopt the Locust Street / Mount Diablo Boulevard Area Specific Plan
  • Complete review of the BART Transit Center Village and Neiman Marcus projects
  •  Implement parking pay stations in the downtown
  • Finishing that new library and parking garage.
  • Do reconstruction on Geary Road.
  • Work on a retaining wall for Rudgear Road Retaining Wall
  • Conduct a needs assessment for Heather Farm Swim Center

20 thoughts on “Making it through? Highlights of Walnut Creek’s budget reflects economic challenges, successes

  1. Soccer Mom,
    Thanks for working on the weekend to give us this info.
    Tough times. Some good news. Some bad news.
    Oh right, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Sounds familiar.


  2. Weathering a financial downturn is much easier if prudent spending on the part of those in charge is the practice.

    Always was that way in the past when Walnut Creek was managed properly and the council heeded the warning signs presented by their very capable staff.

    This town got off the track of careful spending several years ago and it will take many years to recover from those mistakes.

    If we had 5 council members who deal with finances the way Gary Skrel does, we would be in much better shape. He at least saw the signs and heeded the warnings and had the guts to stand alone against spending money we didn't have. Good for you Gary and thanks for looking out for your constituents.


  3. In another document on that site, under budget 2008-10 there is a document covering the police department. I find it odd that although there is no growth in employees (119 FTE) from the 2006-8 to 2008-10 budget the personnel costs went up $5.8 million. That's an increase of almost $49k per police dept. employee.

    I suppose that must be benefits (read pensions). That's too much.


  4. Arts and Rec is not a money maker when even with the money it generated it still has to have additional money from the general fund to keep the doors open at the Lesher Center


  5. I understand now why an earlier budget proposal wanted to eliminate school crossing guards but keep Lescher ticket takers on the payroll. Protecting children doesn't generate revenue. It's nice that the guards were eventually retained but it's shameful that we even had to fight for it in the first place.


  6. 1:21

    Does it look $42 million worth of good? At that price it damned well ought to!!!

    Why is it so close to the street like every other newish building in Walnut Creek. Do we not value any set-backs anymore?


  7. Drive by my house and see if it looks like it's worth 950K. What does anyone know about how much it costs to build a commercial building. Does the Dublin library look like it's worth X or the Livermore library look like it's worth Y. What do you know?


  8. If you listened or read anything about the building of the new library downtown you would have a pretty good idea of how much it costs to build such a building.

    One of the most expensive parts of
    the library is the underground parking lot. Astronomical amount of money for the net increase of 50 new parking spaces compared to the surface lot it is replacing.


  9. Finally went to the Lafayette library. Many nice things to say about it, but one thing that made it convenient was the underground parking. Lots of space underneath. And this library had lots of people using it.


  10. No additional police officers? Apparently it is going to take a few more armed robberies for the city council to wake the hell up.


  11. Hope that as part of the review process on the Bart Transit Village “story poles” will be erected. Residents and visitors alike would benefit from an actual depiction of the impact of 50 foot tall buildings blocking the views of the foothills and Mt Diablo from the Bart platform.


  12. 12:43

    What makes you think that BART passengers should have the only reamaining view of Mt. Diablo left in Walnut Creek?????

    We have successfully blocked the view of our beautiful mountain in the remainder of downtown with over building and “in-fill” so why would this development be any different.

    Why doesn't the City Council take their time on this one to see how well the transit village sells at the Pleasant Hill BART station?

    How about filling up the Mercer and the butt ugly building on Ygnacio near the BART station before more housing is built????


  13. Anon 12:43,
    You have a punctuation problem. You use as many as four question marks after some questions in your post yet fail to use one at all after another question. Why not just go back and follow grammatical rules? When bloggers use inapproprite punctuation, e.g., all bold types or all/no caps, they immediately lose credibility with people who strive to present their arguments through logic and factual documention rather than through use of literary devices.


  14. ANon 12:43pm,
    I identified the wrong time for the prior post. My comments should have been addressed to 12:57pm.
    I beg your pardon.
    Anon 2:38pm


  15. Anon 6:11 said “Why is it so close to the street like every other newish building in Walnut Creek. Do we not value any set-backs anymore?”

    I've noticed the same thing. I think the WC city council wants to make WC look like a true city (like NY city or SF) where the buildings are right on the sidewalk. I don't like it at all.


  16. Anon 2:38 PM…12:57 PM here,

    Sorry if I offended you. HA!

    What is your opinion on any of the subjects being discussed, or do you have one?

    Afraid to write anything else as I might make another punctuation error as well as spelling errors if I am not careful.


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