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The City of Palm Desert's budget adopted annually  in June.


      Budget Book Cover



It is a pleasure to present to the residents of Palm Desert, members of the City Council, and other interested readers, the fiscal year 2019-2020 operating budget for the City of Palm Desert, California. The budget is prepared and adopted with the principal goals of remaining fiscally prudent, providing the high level of services that residents have come to expect, maintaining quality public amenities, and balancing the budget without utilizing any of the approximately $80 million the City holds in reserve[1].


The City’s overall budget includes many governmental funds including the General Fund. The expenditure budget for all funds for fiscal year 2019-2020 is $120,878,412 not including transfers between funds. This amount represents an increase of less than 1.7% from the fiscal year 2018-2019 all funds budget.


General Fund


The General Fund is the primary fund used to finance the daily operations of the City. This year’s estimated General Fund revenues are $60,673,722. This represents an approximate $2.66 million increase (4.6%) over the prior fiscal year’s budget revenue projection of $58,012,396. The increase in this year’s revenue projection includes a projected increase in Transient Occupancy Tax from new hotels and new short-term rental permits as well as an increase in sales tax revenue based on the U.S. Supreme Court case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018). The decision requires out-of-state sellers to collect and remit sales and use taxes to the State. The City will get a portion of the State/County pooled revenue from these remote sales based on the City’s sales tax relative to the rest of the County.


    Chart_Where the Money Comes From

In September of 2018 the City Council adopted Resolution 2018-73, approving a General Fund Reserve Policy to adequately reserve resources for operational liquidity, emergencies, financial or economic uncertainties, future capital/infrastructure improvements, liabilities, post-employment obligations, equipment replacement, and facilities maintenance


The General Fund operational expenditure budget for this year is $60,627,888, an increase of 4.5% from the original General Fund expenditure budget for fiscal year 2018-2019. The increase in General Fund expenditures is due to increases in public safety costs, personnel services and benefits, and the cost of contracts due to the increase in the statewide minimum wage, as well as other general administrative/maintenance cost increases including insurance, professional services, utilities and supplies.


Chart where the money goes 


Other Funds


In addition to the City’s General Fund, the overall budget includes many other governmental funds. Most of these funds are restricted for specific purposes. For example, monies collected and placed in the Fire Fund must be used for fire protection services or equipment. Special Assessment Funds depend on monies collected from property owners within a specified area to maintain that area and must be used for that purpose. The detailed budgets for these funds are included in this book in the corresponding sections.


City Goals


Palm Desert offers an outstanding quality of life that provides recreation, education, shopping, housing, and entertainment in a uniquely beautiful desert setting. In 2013, with the help of more than 130 residents and business owners, the City developed its newest 20-year strategic plan, Envision Palm Desert → Forward Together, with the goal of ensuring that this already great community will flourish and improve through the coming decades. The Envision plan includes nine strategic results areas ranging from arts and culture to transportation. The Envision plan is one of the guiding documents that the City uses when developing its annual goals and budget. The budget includes projects or programs that cover all nine areas. The following are some of the highlights that the City will be working on during this budget year.


Land Use, Housing & Open Space

In the past fiscal year, the City broke ground on one of the Envision plan’s primary goals under this strategic results area­ – the creation of an economically vibrant pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown core. The project will transform San Pablo Avenue, an underutilized central street, by embracing the concepts outlined in yet another completed Envision plan goal, the City’s updated General Plan.


Economic Development


This strategic results area in the Envision plan sets the goal of providing for an inviting economic and lifestyle climate. As such, in early 2018 the City Council approved Palm Desert’s Economic Development Strategic Plan (EDSP). The EDSP calls for the City to expand on Palm Desert’s already successful “…long-term attention to high-quality economic and community development...” which has resulted in “…the balanced, high-amenity, fiscally strong community that Palm Desert is today…” This includes programs that focus on marketing, business retention and expansion, revitalizing key commercial districts (San Pablo, El Paseo and Highway 111) and entrepreneurial development.


Tourism & Marketing

 The Envision plan recognized the City’s tourism market as so important that it garnered its own strategic results area. Recently the City engaged its marketing consultant to create and execute a new marketing campaign to help new visitors continue to discover Palm Desert as a premier getaway destination. Based on market research, the new campaign will showcase the many ways in which the desert rhythm of life in Palm Desert is the perfect prescription for people who need to escape their stressful lives.


Public Safety and Emergency Services

 Another key priority in the Envision plan is the overall safety of the City’s residents and visitors. Palm Desert contracts with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire for public safety services. This year, the public safety budget is approximately $36.8 million. The portion charged to the General Fund represents approximately 42% of overall General Fund expenditures. While the percentage of the budget slightly decreased from the current year, the overall cost increased from $35.5 million to $36.8 million.

 table_Public Safety

Police Services – The City’s contract for police services operates with 75.03 sworn staff (including a shared Commercial Enforcement Officer with the Cities of Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage) and 17.91 non-sworn (classified) staff. The fiscal year 2019-2020 proposed Police Department’s budget is $22.3 million, a 2% increase over the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget of $21.9 million.

Fire Services – The City’s contract for fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS) includes the operation of three fire stations with 57 paid professional firefighters and five staff members within the Fire Prevention Bureau. The fiscal year 2019-2020 proposed budget for fire protection services and EMS is approximately $14.15 million, a 6.8% increase[2] over the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget of $13.2 million. In addition, the City began recovering costs for EMS transports in accordance with the City’s EMS Billing Program in September of 2018. Staff is projecting $2 million in revenue from this program in fiscal year 2019-2020.

In addition to the operational budget, the City will be replacing a medic unit and sharing in the cost for the replacement of a more than 20-year-old ladder truck with the cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.



 As we work to ensure the continued provision of excellent public safety services, the City is keenly aware that the cost of these services will keep rising. We continue to explore and study ways to contain costs while delivering the high quality public safety services that our residents and visitors have come to expect.


In closing, I want to thank the Palm Desert City Council for their vision and fiscally prudent policies that have helped secure Palm Desert’s current and future economic vitality, ensuring that our community continues to be a great place to live, work and visit.


Respectfully presented,

 Lauri Aylaian

City Manager

The increase includes a change in the methodology for estimating the budget (budget vs. actual comparison), the change in the State minimum wage, and the wage increases based on the memorandum of understanding between the firefighter’s union and the State in 2017.


 Budget for Previous Years

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