When Mayor Matt Beekman took the microphone Monday evening to deliver his State of the City address at the Hughson City Council meeting, he had one piece of news of which not all mayors can boast: the City’s General Fund reserves are at 83 percent.
Auditors found that for the 2013-2014 fiscal year the City’s General Funds reserves have increased over $200,000, something Beekman calls “a pretty high percentage.”
“One of our saving methodologies has been utilizing CDs,” explained Beekman in reference to Certificates of Deposit. “When they mature we roll them into other CDs, which is called laddering, and we can pay off debt early, and basically get a better return on our investment.”
Essentially, the City of Hughson is ahead of the fiscal curve, a rarity for many cities still working to escape the strain posed by the economic recession that was in full swing less than a decade ago.
Property values are also up 20 percent in Hughson and the town is experiencing increased revenue in sales and property taxes as well. Beekman attributes the positive growth to the increase in retail sales and the success of local agribusiness companies, but the town is striving for more he said.
One place to start? Bringing a farmers market downtown.
“Hughson is probably one of the last cities, in California for that matter, to not have a farmers market,” said Beekman Monday evening. “Having that critical mass to attract a farmers market has been problematic for us, but one of the solutions we’re looking at is sharing a farmers market with Hilmar, which is a similar city with a similar dynamic.”
To differentiate itself from other regional markets, the market would be on Thursday nights and offer a wine component. With legislation recently passed that allows artisan small wineries to sell wine at farmers markets, the City is hoping to be one of the few markets in the area that offers wine.
“We don’t see that being implemented in many places and we see that as a potential niche, “said Beekman.
The City is presently collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce to make the market a reality by summertime.
He also said the market is a “huge opportunity” to continue a mission on which the City has been working: attracting people to downtown Hughson.
One way this mission is coming to fruition is through the establishment of a Dollar General strategically placed downtown. It will not be a “cookie cutter” building but congruous with the downtown as the retail chain has made modifications to make the exterior fit in with the City’s existing buildings.
Dollar General is one example of the town’s interest in taking an “aggressive approach” to attracting and retaining business.
Beekman also touted what he called “actualized opportunities” that Hughson has accomplished, such as the Two Plus Two committees which allows City staff to team up with representatives of the Hughson Unified School District and the Hughson Volunteer Fire Department. These committees allow the individuals to meet quarterly, in turn keeping all entities abreast of each other’s developments. In 2014 two joint ventures were accomplished because of the committees: a command vehicle for the fire department and a sport field through the City and HUSD collaboration.
There are certainly areas for improvement though, said Beekman.
Sensing the changing landscape of technology, in order to remain in touch with constituents and their needs it’s time for the City to get tech-friendly he said.
This includes recording Hughson City Council meetings with video and audio to be uploaded to YouTube Beekman suggested. He said he would also be willing to provide a “Mayor’s Recap” at the end of each meeting to make the facts of what can often be lengthy meetings more accessible to constituents.
Social media is also a priority and the City will be taking steps to engage more with citizens online as “I truly believe government outreach in the future is going to be done on the phone,” said Beekman.
“Moving forward social media is not a luxury, it’s essential... constituents expect this.”