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Balanced city budget approved by council
e city

With an effort spearheaded by a new finance director and an interim city manager, Escalon City Council members in June approved a balanced city budget plan for fiscal year 2024-25. The budget went into effect on July 1, 2024 and runs through June 30, 2025.

Interim City Manager Jaylen French said general fund expenditures were set at $5.3 million, with revenues coming in at that same $5.3 million level.

“The adopted fiscal year 24-25 budget is balanced and therefore does not require the use of any reserves. The fiscal year 23-24 mid-year budget presentation indicated that if spending continued the way it had for the prior budgets, that the City was to expend all reserves by the year 2028-29,” noted French. “That budget projected the fiscal year 24-25 deficit at $709,000. City management worked diligently to cut $515,000 in expenses to balance the budget.”

The cuts made included freezing vacant positions, delaying vehicle, technology and equipment replacement and deferring maintenance, operational efficiencies and cost savings like switching to VOIP phone lines from analog service, and reductions in supplies, training and travel.

“While we are satisfied with the effort to achieve a balanced budget, we recognize that the budget provides no room for the unexpected,” French admitted. “Therefore, should something additional occur, there could be impacts to services.”

The city’s new Finance Director/Human Resources Administrator, Celinda Bickner, led the budget update effort, said French.

“She did a fantastic job in a short time. She led the City’s management team to develop a thoughtful budget reflective of the current realities in each department as well as the new tighter measures brought on by the city’s restricted fiscal position.”

Enterprise Funds (Water, Sewer, Storm, Transit) have projected expenditures of $7.1 million with revenues of $10.4 million; the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Fund has anticipated expenditures of $18.6 million and projected revenues of $20.9 million. Current total reserves are at $4 million.

Though there is little wiggle room, French said the spending plan was very much a team effort.

“City staff received frequent input from the City Council since the mid-year budget adoption in March 2024,” he said. “Additionally, the City held two public workshops in June from which public input was collected and considered.”

The budget passed on a unanimous vote of the council.

French reiterated it’s a spending plan that helps establish a new level of fiscal responsibility.

“The most effective accomplishment in this budget preparation process was establishing new norms, resetting our approach to the budget, and focusing on true needs versus carrying over unnecessary line items. We closely examined actual expenditures from the past three to five years to ensure our numbers aligned with reality, distinguishing between needs, wants, and nice-to-haves. This budget sets a strong foundation for us to build on, but there is more work to do,” he explained. “With this new norm, we can now project for the future more accurately. New revenues and investments will be necessary to deliver essential city services, fund critical infrastructure projects, and provide programs and services to our community members. This forward-looking perspective allows the City Council to pre-plan and strategize how we provide public safety services, 911 emergency response, protection of local drinking water, street and pothole repairs, park maintenance, and keeping our neighborhoods and business areas clean and safe.”

Overall, the interim city manager noted, the 2024-25 city budget “represents a proactive approach to ensuring long-term financial stability and maintaining essential services” for residents and businesses.

He also said it sets the stage for city leaders to “immediately begin looking at, and exploring options in, achieving sustained fiscal health” in the years to come without relying on, using, and depleting the city’s reserves.