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Budget Review Shows Reserve
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Despite continued concerns over the economy, Escalon's mid-year budget review showed some rays of hope, with the city not having to dip too much into reserves to get through the fiscal year.

City Manager Henry Hesling said the review was completed and presented to Escalon City Council members at their recent regular session.

"We're going to be okay, we're still moving ahead," Hesling said of getting through the year. "Our revenues went up a little in sales tax, that counteracted a loss in the property tax but still within the budget parameters we set."

The city's fiscal year runs through June 30, 2011.

With the mid-year budget review formalized, Hesling said now the work can begin in earnest for the 2011-2012 city spending plan. It will be another lean year, he said, with all department heads knowing they have to come in with budgets at or below current levels. The city still has staff furlough days the rest of this fiscal year as well, with the next one scheduled for this Friday, March 18.

"The good news is our reserves are not dipping too much," Hesling said of not having to touch that set aside money. It is for a 'rainy day,' officials note, and the longer they can hold off using any reserves for day-to-day operations, the better.

Hesling said the council did, however, give him the go ahead to look into the possibility of building out the shell next to the police department on McHenry Avenue, which is supposed to be used as a new City Hall.

"They do want to do something with that shell," he said. "We want to see what the price would be on doing a design build, there's a new law that allows municipalities to do that, almost the way the schools do it with a lease back."

Hesling will investigate what the cost and process would be for a 'design build' agreement with a contractor, where the city would come up with a dollar figure and work to develop a financing plan to get the shell converted into useable office space.

"This option is only good between 2009 and 2016," Hesling said of legislation that was enacted by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a design build, the city has more flexibility on contract agreements and bid prices.

"We've got a little bit more control," Hesling said.

Plans for the City Hall complex were drawn up at the same time as the Police Department plans but will be revised, taking out some options to reduce the cost. Hesling said that will be done in house, then they will go to the council for review as the process moves along. Hopefully, Hesling said, the city will get good bids on the project, as contractors continue to look for work.