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Budget Review City Braces For Impact
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Though not as in as bad financial shape as some neighboring cities, Escalon is nonetheless looking at a budget shortfall, thanks to a crumbling economy.

City Manager Greg Greeson was slated to provide a mid-year budget review at the Escalon City Council meeting on Tuesday night, Feb. 17, a day later than normal due to the Presidents' Day observance on Monday, Feb. 16, which would have been the regular meeting day.

"We had adopted a fairly conservative budget, projecting a $51,000 surplus," Greeson said of the figures for the 2008-2009 fiscal year budget when it was adopted last June.

In preparing the mid-year review, though, he took into account the drop in sales tax revenue with the unanticipated closure of Friendly Chevrolet late last year, the housing downturn and the overall decline in the economy.

"The last six months has been more drastic than we even anticipated," he said. "We experienced a greater drop ... the long and short of it is that we saw the trend of the firs six months (of the fiscal year) and what we expect in the next six months, we are anticipating receiving $335,788 less revenue than we had budgeted."

The city does have a healthy reserve, but Greeson said officials are looking at ways other than dipping into that to come up with a balanced budget to close out the year. With other expenses coming in, the actual deficit the city is looking at is roughly $374,000.

There will be cuts ... but right now they aren't expected to impact services or staff.

Looking at everything from needed supplies to overtime, the city can make some budget adjustments to account for the lower revenues.

"We went to work on the expenditures," Greeson explained. "With every department head, we looked over every single expenditure in their budget."

Going through an almost line-by-line review, Greeson said they were able to make $142,00 in operational budget cuts between the police department, public works and the management staff.

"We also trimmed another $132,000 in projected overtime," Greeson said, most of that coming from the police department.

"We also have reduced costs for supplies and equipment, travel and training, though we will still go to conferences and training that is required or paid for by other sources."

In terms of overtime, Greeson said some will be necessary but they will keep a tighter rein on it.

"We want to make sure we're budgeting for only those things that are needed," he said.

By making those cuts and adjustments, the deficit can be whittled down to $100,000.

That can be made up with the reserves, though officials want to make sure it doesn't become an 'easy out' for making up a budget shortfall.

Greeson said all department heads know they have to budget very carefully for the 2009-2010 fiscal year as well.

"If we have to make deeper cuts, that will get into impacting services," Greeson said.

The council was asked to approve the midyear budget revisions at the Tuesday night meeting.

Ultimate goal, said Greeson, is to maintain services and avoid any staff layoffs.

"Nobody's happy with a deficit but given the economic circumstances around us, they understand," he said.