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City Manager Search In Holding Pattern
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Although an initial round of interviews has been completed, don't expect movement anytime soon on the hiring of a new city manager for Escalon. That, according to Interim City Manager Henry Hesling, who said other issues have taken center stage for the council.

"Until they get the budget done, they're not moving ahead with that," Hesling said of bringing a new manager on board.

The top two administrative city posts, in fact, the city manager and police chief positions, are currently being filled by interim hires. Hesling is serving as manager and Jim Shaw as police chief. Plans are for the new city manager to be hired first, then that person will help conduct the search for the city's new police chief.

But with budget issues in the forefront, Hesling said the council will deal with that right now instead of the administrative hirings.

"They did interview seven (city manager) candidates so far," Hesling added of council members.

Still, he classified the search process as being in "a holding pattern" and said the council is still determining how to address the vacancies in the top posts.

"Right now they're determining if they're going to continue with an interim," he said. "When you've got a deficit and you've got your two top positions open ... sometimes it's better to stay status quo."

In terms of the spending plan for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, council members hope to adopt the budget at the June 21 meeting, in time for the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. There are some specific goals set for the new year as well. Among them are adopting a resolution to maintain the general fund reserve at not less than 30 percent of the city's operating budget.

Hesling said that is a good goal, but maybe one that is not possible in tough economic times, especially with the city having to deal with debt service on the new Civic Center in addition to dealing with a budget deficit.

The council also is aiming to complete a feasibility study for a redevelopment agency by Jan. 1, 2011 and wants to implement enterprise zones to enhance business opportunities in the next year as well.

A lot, however, will depend on how the budget picture finally shakes out.

"Escalon is not unlike other cities," Hesling explained. "We're going to put things together and survive another year."

While the city did see "a very little blip" accounting for additional money in property taxes, the sales tax was flat, said Hesling. He also pointed to cuts made last year, with a variety of employee furlough days, not filling vacant positions, and other moves, that helped get the city through a tough budget time.

Once the 2010-2011 budget is in place, Hesling said the council will have to deal with long range concerns.

"They have to look at it, how to deliver services, how to be more structured in the way they deliver services," he said, noting that an overall financial strategy being developed for the city will aid in that process.

The budget plan being proposed for the coming fiscal year does have a deficit, with expenditures estimated at $3.4 million and revenues coming in at just over $3 million.