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Budget Numbers Concern City
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It's getting down to crunch time.

And there are plenty of numbers still to crunch.

The start of the new fiscal year is looming - now just a few weeks away - and Escalon city officials are working toward having a budget in place by the July 1 deadline.

Typically, the city council adopts the budget in late June, often at a special meeting. This year, the process has been made a little tougher due to the state's ongoing fiscal problems.

Council members, in fact, did as many of their counterparts in other cities have done and adopted a resolution at their Monday night meeting, June 1, "declaring the city is experiencing a severe fiscal hardship" due to the state's seizure of local property tax funds.

While there are no 'teeth' in the resolution and it won't change the fact that the state is taking local funds to try and balance its own budget, council members at least took a moral stand against the process.

City Manager Greg Greeson said officials are carefully weighing every expenditure this year, knowing that next year will be at least as difficult financially.

"We're still working on all the revenue numbers," Greeson said. "We don't want to do any layoffs or furloughs."

Greeson added that each department head has been given a directive to keep things lean.

"We've met with them individually, gone though everything once," he explained. "Our property tax is taking a huge drop, sales tax is down everywhere ... we're still trying to wrap our arms around everything and anything."

The public safety budget, which basically is the police department, is the largest department budget in the city's spending plan. Even there, officials are looking to cut costs.

"We've redone some of our scheduling to maximize our manpower," Escalon Police Chief Doug Dunford said. "We've cut back on overtime, we are reducing some training, basically tightening our belt and we're only buying enough supplies to get us through, plus we're also now shopping around, trying to find bargains."

Already, quite a chunk has been cut out of the budget, but Dunford said the clear goal is to maintain a level of service that residents have come to expect.

"We've reduced our training by 66 percent, it's been a healthy cut," he said.

To help maintain services, however, the department has just enacted a new volunteer program, looking for younger volunteers to merge with what had been specifically a senior patrol. The new group gathered for its orientation last week and will have two training sessions in June.

"June 25 that should be up and running," Dunford said of the new volunteer program. "Then they'll be able to help with the fireworks booth, parades, Park Fete."

The department is also getting closer to a move to its new building on McHenry Avenue, with the senior volunteers looking to fill jobs there such as greeting people coming in to the facility, answering questions and possibly even doing fingerprinting duties.

"We have four or five active seniors now that will move in to the regular volunteers program," Dunford said.