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Fiscal Sustainability

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A Community Discussion of Long-Term Fiscal and Organizational Sustainability

The City has struggled financially with ongoing structural deficits. During the recession, the City Council made difficult decisions to reduce service levels which included using reserve funds; realigning, eliminating and consolidating services; eliminating positions through layoffs and early retirements (25% reduction of staff citywide), and negotiating employee concessions. The City made $6.5 million in ongoing reductions between FY 07/08 and FY 11/12; this was a 20% reduction in the General Fund.

In 2010, the Council declared a fiscal emergency and placed Measure F (a 5 year ½ cent sales tax) on the ballot. Measure F passed by 58%, preventing more cuts from impacting Novato residents and the overall quality of life. With Measure F in place, the Council directed staff to create a long term plan that would allow the City organization to operate in a fiscally balanced manner. 

The goal of creating a fiscally sound long-term financial plan had been in the City Council’s Strategic Plan for a number of years. Rather than having staff simply draft a plan with a series of analyses and proposals, and then solicit community and Council feedback, Novato more or less reversed the process. Staff presented work sessions over an entire year intended to analyze the various aspects and components of the City’s financial health. The culmination of each of the work sessions was a series of options that if implemented would have some effect on the long-range fiscal sustainability of the City.

Staff and the City Council worked to aggregate all of these options into one matrix – the Fiscal Sustainability Options Tool. In addition, staff wrote written a comprehensive Fiscal Sustainability Plan to capture all the analysis, research and options to serve as a background and reference document.

Fiscal sustainability is more than a math exercise where one just focuses on the numbers and works with revenues and expenditures to balance and net to zero. The City Council decided on  the right target – which services and what level of services should be funded from Novato’s General Fund. This decision needs was focused beyond an annual budget cycle. Novato’s fiscal condition must be balanced in the long term with the funding and services at a level that meets the community’s expectations for a quality city and municipal operation. This discussion was about organizational and operational sustainability, in addition to fiscal sustainability.


The City Council adopted the Fiscal Sustainability Plan on February 11, 2014. For more information on the process, see the links below:

Sustainability Plan


Read the  Fiscal Sustainability Plan, a comprehensive summary of the research, background and options.

 Background Information   


 Learn about the multi-year process and what has already been done to balance the budget. Review past work sessions and presentations on components of fiscal sustainability 


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