The Fontana City Council unanimously approved its budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on June 23, and despite losing millions of dollars due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the city did not have to lay off any full-time workers or cut their hours.
The budget is "balanced through operational savings, project/contribution deferrals, and the judicious use of reserves," said Lisa Strong, the director of management services, in a presentation during the virtual meeting.
Strong said three principles were established to guide the budget discussions:
• Preserve and protect the city's full-time staff;
• Reduce discretionary services, supplies and project spending (recreation programs, non-critical one-time projects);
• Manage the budget on a quarter-by-quarter basis and make adjustments as they become necessary.
The budget maintains a 15 percent contingency reserve and invests $7 million in roads and sidewalks, Strong said.
City leaders said that even though the COVID-19 crisis caused sales tax revenues to plummet, Fontana still fared better financially than many other cities.
"The City Council has made decisions in prior years guided by fiscal conservatism and a commitment to operate within our means and maintain reserve funds for contingency and unforeseen circumstances. The results of those decisions place the City of Fontana in a position to not only survive this historic pandemic, but to be stronger for it," said City Manager Mark Denny in the printed budget report.
Councilmember John Roberts agreed that the city's prudent fiscal policies over the years have paid off.
"It's nothing short of miraculous to see how well we have come through this," Roberts said. "We look at other surrounding cities that aren't doing nearly as well."
Councilmember Jesse Sandoval praised the city's 600 full-time employees who are weathering the storm created by the health emergency.
"The employees are the backbone of the city," Sandoval said. "Without the employees, this city wouldn't be as successful as it is."
Strong said the pandemic has caused Fontana's unemployment rate (which had been at 4 percent at the start of 2020) to rise above 13 percent, and Denny said the city will still have to deal with problems caused by the pandemic in the upcoming months.
"Shelter-in-place directives have impacted retail sales and caused the closure of facilities and the cancellation of programs. This has had a devastating impact on small businesses particularly, and a focus on economic recovery will be a top priority for the City in the year ahead," Denny said in his budget report.