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Hughson looks to fill $70,000 gap in city budget

POSTED September 7, 2010 10:53 p.m.

Hughson city staff brought a balanced budget to the City Council budget study session on Tuesday night, and left with a $70,000 deficit after council made suggestions in an effort to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

“If we are going to be surprised, I would rather be surprised with more than we projected,” said Jeramy Young, new Hughson City Council member who took the spot of recalled council member Doug Humphreys.

The two projected amounts of income the council felt were overstated were the current property values and the Motor Vehicle in Lieu Tax.

Property values were projected at $300,000 compared to $268,355 for the 2009/2010 estimations. The reason for the high projections — “we know that the economy is slightly improving,” said Debbie Paul, director of finance for the City of Hughson. “We are basing this projection off of reports from California Finance and from my gut.”

Mayor Ramon Bawanan suggested being more conservative with projected property values and all council members agreed. The council directed Paul to lower the projected property values by 10 percent.

Bawanan also noticed a slight jump in projections for the Motor Vehicle in Lieu Tax from $430,000 when he originally saw it on the budget committee to $470,000 that was presented to the council on Tuesday.

Hughson Interim City Manager Thom Clark explained that they originally projected the tax to be higher than $470,000 but they wanted to be conservative at $430,000. Once the budget came out and they were $40,000 in the hole, they upped the projected taxes to have a balanced budget.

“We adjusted it up so we would have a balanced budget,” Clark said.

The council agreed to lower the projected motor vehicle tax back down to $430,000.

Other changes already made into the draft of the budget for 2010/2011, which was suppose to be approved in June, including consolidating of jobs.

The consolidation would result in the Director of Public Works/City Engineer position changing to Director of Community Development/Public Works which would encompass the job of the planning director saving the city $100,000, Clark said.

“We have been tightening our belts for a couple of years now and working with bare bones,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of money to work with.”

Another suggestion made by council was to appropriate money that they actually had in the budget and not money they were hoping to receive.

Jill Silva, new council member who took the spot of resigned council member Ben Manley, was uncomfortable with appropriating $400,000 to buy park land when the money wasn’t even there, she said.

All council members agreed to decrease that amount to $288,713 for the purchase of park land, of which they already have the money for.

“We don’t have the money to appropriate to buy the park so we shouldn’t put it in the budget,” Silva said.

The council suggested making the three changes to the budget, which now leaves the budget unbalanced at negative $70,000. Council suggested looking into other ways to “squeeze some savings” and look at other things to cut.

“Staff should suggest some cuts and savings because they know the impact of the cuts,” Bawanan said.

The council scheduled a meeting at 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 in City Hall to have a second budget study workshop to figure out more ways to save money for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. The council is hoping to approve the budget at their Sept. 27 regular council meeting.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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