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Council: Protect Reserve $
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A couple more staff furlough days remain for this fiscal year - the next one coming up this week, Friday, April 15 - but whether they will continue next year as a cost-cutting measure remains to be seen. Generally, the third Friday of each month has been used as a furlough day, with city staff not working but also unpaid for the day.

Escalon City Manager Henry Hesling said budget talks continue and while the direction from the Escalon City Council is clear, finding a way to make what they want to happen will be difficult at best.

"The council has said 'don't touch' the reserve," Hesling said, noting that they want to keep the city's reserve fund at 33 percent of the operating expenditures budget.

Hesling doesn't know if that can be achieved, but they are going to try.

"Whatever the operating fund expenditures are, they want to keep 33 percent of that in the reserve fund, we are trying to maintain that," Hesling said.

It's getting increasingly tough, however, as more pressures come to bear on the city coffers. The bulk of neighboring cities are nowhere near that level of reserve.

"The goal we've set is that expenditures are not going to exceed revenues," Hesling said, with the city aiming to stay in the black for the coming year. "We're starting to get the paperwork back from the department heads, I just basically said 'give it your best shot,' I did not say cut it (individual department budgets) by five percent or 10 percent, but I did say 'give me a realistic budget' that we can start to work with."

Once all the departmental budgets are received, Hesling and Finance Director Tammy Alcantor will look at those to gauge the expenditures as well as looking at where the money will come from on the revenue side.

The most recent Escalon City Council meeting, on April 4, also included a closed door personnel session for the start of labor negotiations with the employment groups. There was no reportable action on that front. Hesling did say the furlough days are being talked about, along with "a couple of other issues" as the negotiations begin.

"We're going to have a budget workshop in May," Hesling added.

The session will include a review of the budget highlights - and lowlights - and seek comment from the public and the council on the spending plan. The council typically approves the budget in late June, just prior to the start of the new fiscal year in July.

"We're going to try to do it on the same night as a council meeting, but just bring the council in a little earlier for the budget workshop," Hesling said.

Tentative date for the workshop is May 16 but the time has not yet been finalized.

Hesling said it is getting harder to find ways to cut the city budget, as they are operating at a minimum as it is.

"We've cut over 20 percent of the workforce in the last few years," he said. "At some point, you have to look at the delivery of your services."

Contracts with both the GSU, General Services Unit, and Police Department employees expire at the end of June. Department heads are under a different contractual agreement.

Hesling said the city is down to less than three dozen fulltime staff members and officials are looking for ways to deliver services more efficiently with the remaining staff so as not to need any more cuts.