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Council Approves $14M City Budget
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With few questions from the public and just a couple minor clarifications asked for by council members, the Escalon City Council on Monday night unanimously approved the 2016-17 city budget, which will take effect on Friday, July 1.

The fiscal year spending plan, which runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 came in at $14,858,537 – though roughly half of that is in a Capital Improvements budget and the other half in the actual operating budget for day to day operations.

City Manager Tammy Alcantor presented the plan to the council and the audience at Monday night’s meeting also had the opportunity to ask any questions.

Operating expenditures are predicted at $3.16 million, while operating revenues are forecast at $3.47, leaving the city with a small deficit to make up at the end of the year.

While it’s not a true ‘balanced budget,’ Alcantor said there will be very little reserve needed to offset the anticipated deficit and the city is still projected to maintain a healthy reserve by mid-2017.

Only one change was made in the proposed budget from an earlier initial presentation, with the removal of an expenditure of $368,500 in the Capital Improvements budget due to the city opting not to purchase some property on McHenry Avenue as part of the McHenry Avenue lift station project.

Councilman Robert Swift noted that many of the capital projects that the city is looking at starting “will take us well into the future” – including sewer and water system upgrades.

Councilman Ed Alves sought clarification on a few issues, noting that residents ask him for specifics on projects and expenditures and he wanted to make sure he was providing accurate information.

As is often the case, the highest percentage of the operating budget goes to Public Safety, about 58 percent, with Public Works and Development Services each accounting for about 11 percent of the total operating budget.

Councilman Danny Fox made the motion to accept the budget, with a second coming from Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Laugero. The budget passed on a 5-0 vote.

In other business, the council also introduced and waived the first reading of an ordinance amending a portion of the city’s water conservation program. That action, said Alcantor, will now allow the council to go in and – by resolution – make changes to the city’s allowable watering days and times. With an El Nino year, rainfall totals brought reservoirs to their highest levels in years and officials are looking to loosen some watering restrictions for residents. Those changes could be made within the next couple of weeks, with a possible resolution in front of the council at their next session.

One resident who spoke on the possible changes said the current schedule makes it very difficult for her to keep her lawn and hedges healthy and she was hoping for some flexibility.

“We’re trying to fine tune it so it works for everybody,” said Mayor Gary Haskin.

Meanwhile, the council held off on an appointment to the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District, hoping to get additional applicants for the post and Haskin agreed to represent the city at a Tuesday, June 28 ‘necessity hearing’ on behalf of South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) in its bid to provide electric service to Manteca, Escalon and Ripon.