By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Budget Work Awaits Council
Placeholder Image
Propositions 1A through 1E will be on the ballot for Tuesday's special election, May 19, and what happens there will likely trickle down to have an effect on what happens this budget year in the City of Escalon.

City Manager Greg Greeson said department heads are still crunching some numbers as this year's budget talks remain in full swing, but there are still some uncertainties.

"The Governor is supposed to release the May revise this Thursday," Greeson said of getting an updated state spending plan.

The unveiling comes a couple of weeks earlier than anticipated and could include some numbers that Escalon can use in developing its own budget for fiscal year 2009-2010. The budget must be in place for the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and council members typically adopt it at the second meeting in June or, in some cases, at a special session called late in the month.

"We made tough mid year cuts," Greeson noted of department heads, who chopped their budgets down partway through the current fiscal year in order to make it though without going into the red.

"We may have to go back for more," Greeson admitted.

Revenue estimates are being developed for 2009-2010 and Greeson said officials are being very conservative. They are projecting significant drops in both sales tax and property tax, the latter in case the state comes in and takes more of a cut from the local districts.

Worst case scenario is having all of the propositions fail and having the state coming to local governments looking for additional funds. Already allocated state funds for programs could also be cut or even taken back.

Looking to protect the city, Greeson said all department heads have been asked to keep spending to a minimum. Many municipalities right now are looking for a specific percentage of across the board cuts in all departments.

"We don't usually work that way," Greeson explained. "We look at what cuts will mean to service."

Some departments may be able to tighten their belts a little more than some, he admitted, but the primary goal is to maintain city services while not dipping too deeply into reserves. The city does have a healthy reserve and Greeson said officials know they likely will have to tap in to it to make it through the next couple of tough economic years.

"If the state comes looking for a deeper hit to our property tax, certainly that would be huge," Greeson said, holding out hope that the state won't go that route.

Looking ahead, however, Escalon City Council members met in special session on Monday night for a presentation on the existing rate structure for the water, sewer and storm water funds. Rates in all three areas have not been raised in several years.

"We're asking the council to consider increasing them," Greeson said of the rates. "There haven't been any in about 10 to 15 years and those funds are becoming depleted."

Following review and discussion at the Monday night meeting, council members asked for more detail on each of the funds individually, including operating costs and personnel costs. That information will be brought back, so council members can see which of the funds - water, sewer (wastewater) or stormwater - needs to recoup more of its costs.

"That probably won't be coming back until after July 1," Greeson said. "We've got so much work to do with the budget."