Following weeks of calculations, negotiations and hard decisions, the City of Corcoran has a finalized budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. And the budget is balanced for the first time in several years.
The city council attacked its final deficits during last week’s meeting, shaving what started as $414,000 in red ink in the general fund. Two weeks ago, that loss had been cut to $241,000. With more financial good news than bad news last week, staff was able to retire the deficit and complete a budget that finished with a little over $4,000 to add to the general fund’s dwindling reserve.
City Manager Dr. Kindon Meik told the council staff had been successful in recovering some expenses, working with the Corcoran Unified School District on two fronts. The city and school district agreed CUSD would cover approximately $35,000 for the school resource police officer and about $30,000 in pool expenses—for the time the district uses the facility for swim and water polo seasons.
While making up that money, the city lost $40,000 after a recent state shift in funding for realignment money. The state had been reimbursing municipalities for taking on more of the burden for arrests and incarceration following passage of AB-109, the controversial bill that reduced penalties for what the state considered non-violent crimes. Under the change in application of the funding, now counties dealing with criminal/mental health issues will receive the money; Dr. Meik said he expects San Francisco and Los Angeles to benefit from the Central Valley’s loss.
With that bad news came some good news. Corcoran will receive about $145,000 in one-time funding from the state in “triple flip” monies. The complicated funding source occurred when the state changed its formula for reimbursing cities and counties under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; it is now being phased out and the city will get one last payment.
Dr. Meik said the combined savings, losses and revenues tipped the budget deficit to just $47,000. However, noting the council was adamant about balancing the scales, he asked for direction regarding items still under consideration.
Among those were trimming funding currently provided to the chamber of commerce ($30,000) and to the Recreation Association of Corcoran ($50,000). Dr. Meik said the council could also consider cutting the $115,000 provided to The Corcoran Community Foundation as the city’s share for maintenance of its largest park, located on the RAC grounds.
The suggestion did not get much support.
“We have seen many cities cut funds to recreation as part of their budget restrictions,” noted Councilman Jim Wadsworth. “We get a lot of bang for our buck in Corcoran: there are few small towns that offer the quality and variety of programs we have. I would hate to see that cut.”
Instead, Wadsworth and other councilmen approved pulling from a rebates/refund pool of money the city has accumulated. Dr. Meik said it contained about $94,000; the money comes mainly from insurance reimbursements.
“We like to maintain some money here, but we just received $25,000 that we were not anticipating,” he told the council.
With that in mind, the council opted to transfer $50,000 from that slush fund to the general fund.
The council also anticipated pursuing additional revenue enhancers to begin balancing next year’s budget. Among the items that may be considered in upcoming months will be a transient occupancy tax (hotel tax), possible increases in business licenses and permits and fees, and a sales tax increase measure.