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Unanimous Vote - Council Adopts New City Budget
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With expenditures topping out at over $3.14 million and general fund revenues estimated at $2.84 million, Escalon will dip into the reserves to the tune of about $200,000 to balance its budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Council members, in a 5-0 vote, approved the budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1, giving the nod to the spending plan at their meeting Monday night, June 6.

"We have to use a little over $200,000 of our reserves but we're still maintaining 33 percent of the operational budget in reserve," said City Manager Henry Hesling. "This is a living document, we'll be doing monthly budget reviews and I have no problem going back to the council if we need to make adjustments."

Hesling said he and finance director Tammy Alcantor will keep close tabs on the budget and keep the council apprised of any major changes in revenues or expenditures regularly. There will also be a midyear budget review, but Hesling said the monthly checks will help them stay ahead of any trends, good or bad.

As part of the budget package approved by the council, the furlough days for city employees that were observed the third Friday of the month for the past fiscal year have been eliminated. In its place, employees have agreed to pay more toward their retirement and a two-tier retirement system has been enacted, with new employees contributing more to start.

Hesling said he felt that was a good compromise, with employees willing to pay more to PERS in exchange for not having the unpaid furlough days.

"We shrunk the organization (last year) but we want to make sure the services aren't curtailed," Hesling explained, noting that keeping city offices open five days a week will help meet the public's needs more efficiently. "We're going to take care of our people."

A budget workshop earlier drew a handful of citizens to discuss budget issues and the public hearing on Monday night prior to adoption drew no comment, though there were a half dozen citizens in the audience.

"It's pretty straightforward," Hesling said of the budget, which he said may account for the lack of public comment.

Mayor Danny Fox said the budget is sound, and though the staff reductions taken in the last fiscal year were tough to make, the city is in better financial position now.

"We have the bills paid," he said. "And the employees have definitely picked up the slack."

Fox said with the loss of employees to cuts, those remaining have done more work and kept the city operating at a high level. For that, he and fellow council members are grateful.

Hesling also praised the employees and said other highlights of the budget package include approving a 'design build' plan for the shell on McHenry Avenue that will one day serve as the new City Hall. Next door to the Police Department, progress will be made on putting plans in place for the build out of that structure this year, said Hesling.

The newly approved budget takes effect Friday, July 1.