The City of SLO is taking smart steps to secure a stable future and should focus resources where primary goals on housing, transportation and climate overlap.

That’s the standpoint of the SLO Chamber leadership as the city prepares to approve its 2019-2020 budget in coming days.

The Chamber board applauds the city’s bold moves to pay down unfunded liabilities, address escalating costs and thoughtfully plan for the future, and encourages city leaders to remain focused on implementing these plans over the long term.

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More than 80 business leaders came together through the Chamber’s convening over the past several months to dig into city finances and develop recommendations on priorities for the next two years.

Here’s a few key points anyone interested in the city’s future should know.

Overlapping visions

The Chamber salutes the considerable overlap between SLO’s recently adopted Major City Goals for 2019-2021 and the Chamber’s economic vision, Imagine SLO. The shared priorities focus on investments that unlock our ability to build a more complete, safe and fiscally
sustainable city that houses more of its workforce.

Within the city goals of housing, sustainable transportation, climate action, downtown vitality and fiscal sustainability and responsibility, there’s significant interplay.

The diagram below shows just a few of the ways these goals come together in addressing community wants and needs.

The Chamber urges the city to prioritize projects and programs in these overlapping areas in order to make the most efficient and economical progress.

For example, investing in infrastructure such as the Prado Road Overpass will enable meaningful progress on climate action, housing and multimodal transportation.

Partnering with other municipalities for shared delivery of services addresses fiscal sustainability and responsibility, housing and multimodal transportation.

We encourage Chamber members to join us in championing these areas where progress can be achieved on several fronts.

Paying it forward

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. It’s a familiar notion in the business world, and one the city is taking to heart on its huge unfunded pension liability.

That liability stands at $150 million, on which the city pays 7 percent interest. By making early payments of $32 million through 2028-29, as the budget proposes, the city will save $19 million in interest payments in the long run.

That’s a bold step in the right direction, one the Chamber has been advocating for the past several years. It’s a course correction from less future-oriented thinking in decades past, and we urge the city to continue paying down this liability ahead of schedule.

The move also puts the city in a better position should CalPERS see less-than-expected returns, something the city actuary considers the biggest looming danger, estimating it could double the city’s payments.

The City Council will take up the budget at its June 4 meeting, and we welcome you to join our representatives there.