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Council takes fiscally prudent stance on budgets
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The Turlock City Council directed City Manager Gary Hampton on Tuesday to move forward with a “baseline” budget proposal for 2017-18 and 2018-19 that will not address any of the staffing shortfalls presented by City department heads at the previous budget workshop.

The proposed General Fund budgets maintain status quo operational service levels from the previous fiscal years with approximately $177,000 in deficit spending forecast for 2017-18 and $86,000 in deficit spending for 2018-19. The City is not expected to end the budgets years in a deficit, however, as over the past several years there has been $300K to $500K in unspent funds or surplus, according to Hampton.

At a May 5 budget workshop, City department heads presented a number of requests to the City Council and ranked them from “maintain current service levels” to “risk management” and “growth.” The amount of deficit spending required to fund those items ranged from $391K to $1.5 million and $2.07 million, respectively.

Some of those requests were: making a part-time police records technician position and dispatcher position into full time positions, funding overtime for fire personnel training, the hiring of a finance manager to provide internal control oversight to mitigate auditor concerns, the addition of two full time police officers for the traffic unit, hiring a Public Facilities Supervisor and purchasing body cameras for Turlock’s police officers.

None of the requests will be funded in the baseline budget.

“For me, I’m not comfortable at this time entertaining those budget augmentations. I think that adopting the baseline, like the city manager has recommended, is the most fiscally prudent thing for our city to do,” Mayor Gary Soiseth said.

Both Vice Mayor Bill DeHart and Council member Amy Bublak talked about possibly funding some of the requests later in the year after labor union negotiations are completed and more accurate sales tax information is available.

“I’m always going to be fiscally mindful and people are before property. So, as much as I appreciate all of you giving us what you need and what you want, I too believe we need to just do what we have right now and work through negotiations…” said Bublak.

The Council is schedule to have another budget workshop during a special meeting at 5 p.m. May 23. The final proposed budget is scheduled to go before the Council for a vote at their June 13 meeting.

On Tuesday, the City Council also:

·         Approved closure of N. Soderquist Road between Fulkerth Road and West Canal Drive from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 3 for the 2017 Listener Appreciation Concert.

·         Accepted a fiscal analysis report from Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. evaluating the special tax levied in Community Facilities District #2 and authorized $20,000 to be spent on hiring a legal firm to work with Economic & Planning to develop written policies for the administration of the special tax.

The City of Turlock adopted CFD #2 in 2004 to bridge the gap between property taxes and the actual cost of providing public services. This special tax is on annual property tax bills; for single family homes, it is $636 a year and $499 for a multiple family unit.

Economic & Planning Systems found that the tax levied in Community Facilities District #2 is sufficient to provide public services through 2035.

Currently, the tax only applies to new residential projects requiring approval of a legislative act. City staff requested the hiring of a legal firm to develop policies that address questions that have arisen as to when annexation to the CFD should be required.

·         Adopted a policy that establishes guidelines for the City’s issuance and management of debt.