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City Finances Holding Steady
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It may not be as big a bottom line as originally anticipated ... but it will still be written in black ink, and that's something Escalon city officials feel good about, completing a mid-year budget review for the city recently.

"The bottom line is we're going to be fine," City Manager Greg Greeson said of making it through the fiscal year with some cash still on hand. "We had projected a $72,000 surplus, now we think we'll have around $12,000."

The fiscal year will end June 30, 2008 and preparations have started on the 2008-2009 budget, with department heads at all levels given instructions to keep a lid on spending.

"Our sales tax and property tax are slightly down," Greeson explained. "Our biggest drop is the lack of development and the money that generates."

For Escalon, however, even the hit in that area hasn't been as difficult to swallow as it has for other area communities, those that rely on development to fill the city coffers by virtue of building fees and permit costs. As a slow growth city, Escalon typically anticipates less money coming in from that segment.

"We have seen a drop in that area," Greeson added, "but not as big an impact as it's having on other cities. Revenues are slightly down, but so are expenses."

The city should make it through the year with some money left over and Greeson said there have been adjustments made to make sure that is the case, so the city doesn't end the year in the red.

"We've done some belt-tightening things," he said, pointing out that no cuts were made in personnel or services. "We're putting off a couple of smaller purchases, we're not buying a pick up truck for Public Works that was budgeted, we're putting off a software purchase."

The current fiscal year measures can be done without a significant impact, officials said, since they concern primarily not getting things originally planned for, instead of cutting back on what already exists.

"We won't see a drop in level of service to the community," Greeson predicted.

Department heads are getting ready for annual meetings focusing on the budget and city goals for the coming fiscal year and Greeson said the emphasis will continue to be on being fiscally conservative, working to meet the needs of the community but balancing it out against the cost of doing business.

"We have a healthy revenue fund," Greeson added.

He cited the work of the current council and the past couple of councils, putting money aside and budgeting conservatively in terms of revenue, as helping to contribute to the reserve. And even though officials hope to avoid dipping in to the reserve, it is there if needed.

"We're in a little better spot than most cities," agreed Greeson. "The council has been fiscally conscientious."

The city should see some growth and development for fiscal year 2008-09, but it's expected to be small in terms of residential growth, officials predicted. Business development is anticipated to slowly continue at the city's business park at the west end of town along Highway 120 at Brennan and other projects are also still in the works, although many will not likely come to fruition this year, such as the Heritage Park subdivision.

"It's there, but right now there are no active discussions," Greeson said of that particular project.

City council members were given the mid-year budget assessment recently and while the figures show the city is financially secure, Greeson said this year is probably just the start of the slowdown, with predictions of a continued downturn in the economy on the way.

"It's the next year or two that are going to be the toughest," he said.