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Unanimous Approval Seen For 2020-21 City Budget
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Following a budget workshop and then a public hearing, members of the Escalon City Council voted unanimously in favor of the proposed budget for the new fiscal year. The approval came at a special session on June 24, which was hosted in the council chambers on McHenry Avenue but was also available online for those that did not want to attend in person.

The budget features general fund operating expenditures of $4,468,353 while projecting general fund operating revenues at $4,100,401.

That gives the city a deficit of $367,952 in the general fund but the shortfall can be made up with reserves and the city is still projecting a healthy reserve to end the 2020-21 fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2021.

The budget workshop itself started at 6 p.m. in the council chambers with City Manager Tammy Alcantor providing an overview of the spending plan. Those attending online were able to view the various pages, charts and figures included in the budget as the workshop progressed. Alcantor noted in her budget report that the city’s two main sources of revenue for its General Fund are property tax and sales tax. Those two taxes account for nearly three quarters of the general fund revenues and, as a result of the COVID-19 Stay At Home order enacted earlier this year, she said that the city’s sales tax revenue is down over 17 percent.

Alcantor said the city is projecting a beginning balance of $3.4 million in the operating budget reserve, a healthy percentage of 36.4 percent, above the city’s fiscal goal of having a 33 percent budget reserve.

“We project our expenses high and our revenues low,” noted Mayor Robert Swift.

Alcantor agreed and said department heads were asked to budget conservatively for this coming year, especially keeping in mind the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its overall impact on not just the local, but also state, national and global economies. There were some major equipment purchases that were put off as a way to keep costs down, but the budget does provide for maintaining city services to residents and hits a number of council goals for the year.

“We’ve been fiscally responsible,” Alcantor said.

Mayor Pro Tem Ed Alves said officials did “a good job” with the budget plan and Mayor Swift said having built up a healthy reserve over the last few years is now coming in to play.

“This is the rainy day” the city was planning for, the mayor said.

After the budget workshop, the council hosted a public hearing on the proposed budget. There were no comments on the plan and, with one change by councilman Jeff Laugero, the budget was passed. Laugero moved to not delay the hiring of another officer for the police department until January 2021 but get the position filled as soon as possible. The mid-budget year hiring was originally planned but Laugero said he would rather see the department get a new officer on board sooner rather than later.

With that change, Laugero made the motion to approve the budget, with a second from Alves and it was a unanimous vote for approval.