ORINDA -- Residents wanting to make sure there is enough money to cover any unexpected repairs resulting from future road and storm drain failures have convinced Orinda leaders to sock away extra cash into the city's general fund reserve.

The request from members of the city's Finance Advisory Committee to revise the reserve policy means that, in addition to maintaining $5 million in reserve funds for emergency use, the city will also set aside 20 percent of general fund revenues in excess of $10 million for future crises. Voter-approved Measure L funds for road and drain repair would not be used, city leaders said.

The committee has also asked that a one-time transfer from unrestricted general fund money be made to a fund for slope stabilization and repair. Public Works and Engineering Services director Charles Swanson recommended the city set aside $500,000 to cover the city's self-insurance costs in the event of an emergency.

The recommendations come five months after a sinkhole formed near Tarabrook Drive following a storm drain collapse. The city has spent $137,267 to date on sinkhole-related costs and has budgeted about $636,000 in capital improvement funds for the repair next fiscal year. The city also has earmarked $250,000 for the drainage master plan.

"It only seems prudent to put that money in that fund and prepare for the next one to come," said councilwoman Victoria Smith.

Council members agreed to include the policy change and extra funding in the city's two-year budget, which is up for approval in June.

The draft budget sees the city beginning fiscal year 2014 with about $7.49 million in the general fund and ending fiscal year 2015 with a $6.58 million balance. City staffers are estimating $10.6 million in revenue next fiscal year and about $10.8 million in 2015.

The biggest expense remains police services contracted from the county, but the city has revised an earlier five-year projection that saw those costs increasing 5 percent annually. They are now projecting a 4.5 percent yearly increase through fiscal year 2019. The city plans to spend $4.19 million next year on public safety.

The council discussed a number of other budget items this week. They include:

  • Adding money to the city's general plan fund. City staffers recommend transferring $100,000 during fiscal years 2014 and 2015 from the general fund to update the city's 1987-2007 general plan. The city has already set aside $300,000 for that update.

  • A $15,000 contribution request to the Lamorinda Spirit Van program, which provides transportation for elderly residents. Council members agreed the city could not afford beyond what is raised by the Orinda Community Foundation.

  • Money for a public-opinion poll. Staff said they have set aside $22,000 to conduct a biennial public-opinion poll. City Manager Janet Keeter told the council that the amount could be taken out of the budget if there's disagreement on the expense.

    Another budget meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 30.