The general fund is the main account used to manage the general inflow and outflow of the city’s cash needed to pay for basic services such as law enforcement, fire prevention and suppression, parks and recreation, planning and building, and general administration.
Despite increases in costs to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, whom the city contracts it’s law enforcement with, and increases to city employee benefits, staff members are anticipating a projected surplus of $63,441 for 2014-15.
Last year, a surplus of $20,587 was projected by staff, and while the number may seem small, it came at a time when many of our neighboring cities were facing hard times and even bankruptcy. The city claims that this was possible due to the growing sales tax base and hard work by the individual departments to cut costs while not having to cut staff or service.
This year’s surplus predictions are not that high, unlike fiscal year 2013-14’s, however, anticipated growth in the city is becoming a reality, and growing property tax revenue is helping to add to the city’s coffers with a projected $2.5 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Sales tax influx for the city is claimed to be one of the fastest growing sales tax bases in the state over the past three years with revenues for fiscal year (FY) 2014-15 estimated at $3.7 million compared to 2010-11’s $1,343,218.
General fund expenditures are budgeted at $12,997,979 for FY 2014-15. The largest of those expenses, $4.5 million, goes to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s department, compared to only $3.2 million for FY 2010-2011. Some of the added expense can be attributed to the council, who approved the addition of a sergeant’s position, as well as taking on the full cost of the School Resource Officer position that was previously shared with the Patterson Unified School District.
Contingent upon the approval of the budget, city staff plans to redefine the roles of the School Resource Officer, reevaluating his duties as more of a Community Resource Deputy. He will work in liaison with campus crime and homeless issues, and provide a type of community watch, according to City Manager Rod Butler.
While council members were on board with city staff’s presentation, concerns were made regarding the general fund’s use.
“Generally I feel pretty good about it, and I feel staff has done a good job,” councilman Dominic Farinha told the Irrigator, “but there hasn’t been much effort to put money back into the reserves.”
Councilman Farinha also expressed the need for further analysis of the budget in case funds are needed in the case of a catastrophic event.
A final review of the FY 2014-2015 proposed budget is scheduled for the city council’s regular business meeting next Tuesday on June 17.
Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.