This afternoon, the City Budget Office delivered a mid-stream budget update to its revenue forecasts for 2018-2020. Little has changed in the last two months, and that’s bad news for the City Council as it deliberates on the budget for the next two years.
The Council has been hoping for a last-minute windfall: with revenue growth projected to be slowing to about the rate of inflation over the next couple of years, and no significant new sources of revenues, an upward revision in revenues would have given them some extra money to spend on their wish-list for the 2019-2020 budget.
But instead, with the national and regional forecasts unchanged since August, the City Budget Office left its estimates for 2019 sales and B&O taxes the same. The general property tax forecast only increased by $1.44 million, and with a small bump in the criminal justice sales tax, the total General Fund revenue forecast only increase $1.57 million. Similarly, 2020’s general fund forecast only increased $1.38 million.
A minor piece of good news is that revenues from school zone ticket cameras are expected to be up $2.1 million in 2019 and $2.4 million in 2020 — though those are “restricted use” dollars that can only be used for certain transportation projects around schools.
The City Budget Office also delivered updated numbers to finish out 2018: the bad news is that general fund revenues look to be $690,000 short on the year. Though vehicle license fees and school zone camera revenues are coming in high, and together should generate an additional $4 million.
All of these amounts are rounding errors in the context of the entire city budget. The council will be fighting for scraps, and if it wants to make any substantial additions to the Mayor’s budget, it will need to either dream up a new revenue source or find places to cut.