Harbor District remains seaworthy while other budgets take on water – Half Moon Bay Review

While many government agencies in San Mateo County are grappling with immediate budget deficits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the San Mateo County Harbor District is largely avoiding any shortfalls that will negatively impact its budget in the upcoming fiscal year.

Unlike the city of Half Moon Bay, for example, the Harbor District does not rely on sales or hotel taxes for its primary source of revenue. Instead, it relies on property taxes, which account for 65 percent of total revenues.

Director of Administrative Services Julie van Hoff said she’s anticipating property tax receipts to remain stable next year. Prior to the pandemic, the district projected an increase in revenue streams. Now the outlook appears to mimic last year.

“We had hoped to increase revenues by a quarter of a million (dollars), but we are not going to receive that this next year,” she said.

Still, the district is estimating overall revenues will exceed expenditures by about $726,000. That money will be used toward capital improvement projects at both Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina, officials say.

The other significant piece of the revenue pie comes from berth and slip fees, which account for about 27 percent. Van Hoff said, while both Pillar Point and Oyster Point are at full capacity, the district expects unpaid fees to triple from last year.

“But other than that, we think we will be OK,” she said.

Salaries and beneifts comprise the district’s largest expenditure. As other agencies furlough or lay off staff amid cutbacks, the Harbor District is nearly fully staffed after hiring a new general manager, a harbormaster, an accountant and filling several other vacant positions last year. The budget projection for next year shows a 14.2 percent increase in salaries and wages. There are no staff layoffs planned, but van Hoff said that could be a possibility down the road if revenue sources change significantly.

There will be some impacts due to COVID-19. Harbor General Manager Jim Pruett said the district lost revenue from charter boats operating with fewer people. Restaurants and storefronts have also been closed.

“The district gets a percentage of sales from restaurants and storefronts, and those sales are down significantly,” he said.

The district will also have to delay some of its capital projects as less money has been allocated for improvements. After a public workshop, the district identified several projects — some of which are legally required— to prioritize as part of the next fiscal year budget. Of the estimated $44.1 million needed to complete all capital improvement projects, the district has $15.5 million available.

Projects outlined in the 2020-21 budget as top priorities include creating accessible bathrooms at Ketch Joanne, installing bathrooms at the RV park near Surfer’s Beach, repairing docks at Oyster Point, and environmental projects at Surfer’s Beach.

Pruett said the district continues to look at other funding opportunities to supplement some of the funding to see these projects to completion.

“I do not want to say we are OK this year because we had to make some decisions to put some projects on hold,” Pruett said. “The district is making strategic choices to delay certain projects until funding is available. I’d say the overall budget crunch is having a negative effect.”

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