Several augmentations were made to the 2021-2022 City budget during a special Council meeting on Monday, which saw the approval of numerous amendments meant to improve previously-diminished community services.
Previous City budgets from 2018-2020 featured significant expenditure reductions in order to ensure operational costs would fit within expected revenues, meaning that 35 unstaffed positions funded by the general fund were frozen in an effort to achieve a balanced budget.
With a $5.3 million surplus anticipated for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, thanks in part to an additional $2.5 million in sales tax projections and over $500,000 of extra Measure A money with more to come, the 2021-2022 fiscal year is the City’s first opportunity to begin reinstating services in over a decade. General Fund expenses came in $3.1 million under budget, due largely to personnel vacancies totaling $2.175 million. Of that, Public Safety vacancies accounted for $1.5 million.
Thanks to this additional funding, the Council voted to increase the 2021-2022 sales tax and Measure A revenue budgets by 10% each, to $16,893,700 and $12,340,900, respectively, and approved a myriad of budget augmentations meant to unfreeze and even add positions which will help improve services to the community.
While voting on the augmentations, Council also had the ability to indicate which funding source should be used for the amendments: the general fund, Measure A or American Rescue Plan Act funding. Turlock has received about half of its nearly $16 million in COVID-19 relief funding, with the second round set to arrive next July.
Of the $1,596,666 in general fund augmentation requests, Council voted to utilize almost $450,000 in ARPA funding toward some of those requests including $158,577 to unfreeze one records technician and two emergency service dispatchers at the police department and another $265,965 to pay firefighers’ overtime and keep all four fire stations staffed.
In total, the Council voted to add, unfreeze or reclassify 21 City positions, five of which are fire services: a fire prevention inspector, an engineer, two firefighters and a training chief for a total of $347,914 of Measure A funding. The only requested position that was turned down by the Council was that of land surveyor. The Council also voted to use $250,000 of Measure A funding for implementation and growth of the City’s General Plan.
“I think this is a great finance suggestion coming from our staff today. We benefit from all the long-term planning that was done decades ago in Turlock, so this is a really proactive way to set money aside and be more proactive about our General Plan to not have a huge price tag come to Council,” Councilmember Nicole Larson said.