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Outlook Gloomy - City Budget Talks Start
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Escalon City Council members will get a look at the budget picture in a special workshop set for Tuesday, May 22.

And the picture isn't very pretty.

"I'm sending out information to the council this week," said interim City Manager Henry Hesling. "Revenues are still flat and we've been trying to maintain that 33 percent in reserve but I don't see any way we can maintain that."

Ideally, the council likes to have that much in reserve but as revenues fall, costs rise and the state continues to take more local money, Hesling said it's unrealistic to think they can keep that high of a reserve in place.

Too much pressure on the general fund will likely see that number drop for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

"We have to worry about what other kind of money the state is going to take," Hesling added, whether it is funding previously allocated for police services or perhaps some tax grabs.

The Tuesday night budget workshop, open to the public, is set for 5:30 p.m. at the council chambers at 2060 McHenry. Hesling said he will present an overall view of the finances and council members and city residents will have the opportunity to look at a variety of options.

"I have to give the council some options to stop the hemorrhaging," said Hesling.

The general fund is the one that will take the biggest hit this year, he added, while the sewer and water funds are "not in the best of shape" but are holding their own.

From the general fund, one of the biggest costs will be in debt service, paying for city buildings, with an estimated $450,000 layout for those costs.

With the workshop on Tuesday night, Hesling and Finance Director Tammy Alcantor will offer some recommendations to have a balanced budget in place, with tentative adoption set for the Monday, June 4 council meeting.

"There's going to be some cuts, I guarantee you," Hesling said Monday, but added that he didn't want to list any potential options before sharing them with the council on May 22.

In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the city enacted several furlough days, with the once a month closure of City Hall designed as a cost saving measures.

Meanwhile, the council has a regular session on Monday, May 21 and is due to review fees for improvement districts and will consider a contract renewal for Gilton Solid Waste.

"Gilton has gone 16 years without a rate increase," Hesling said. "They originally wanted a 30 percent increase over three years, going up 10, 10, and 10 percent each year but the council felt that was too much, they weren't really happy with the 30 percent."

When the council rejected that first contract, Hesling said Gilton went back to revise the proposal and he's hoping the city and waste company can reach agreement on a new pact. Gilton's current contact with the city is good just through the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Hesling said he sent out 3,100 notifications about the first rate proposal increase, received five written protests and had a handful of residents attend the council meeting to comment on the Gilton contract.

Monday night's council meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, the Tuesday special workshop is at 5:30 p.m.