Last week’s city council budget review bled into Monday’s council goal-setting session, with an emphasis placed on balancing a precarious budget and the equally ominous water situation.
In the process, department heads saw wish lists fade as serious priorities replaced them.
City Manager Kindon Meik kicked off the hour-long meeting, noting that the council gets together after each election to update goals and review the success of past items on the list. During the last two years, the council has been able to cross of three such goals: providing a safe crossing at Whitley and Highway 43, which will soon acquire a roundabout; working out high speed rail route selection details; and improvement of the city’s IT infrastructure, both software and hardware.
Clean-up of the area near Pickerell and Whitley avenues has also been crossed off the long-term goal list.
However, the city has not been able to get its budget in balance for the past couple of years. Meik said last year’s budget showed deficit spending in the general fund, but by the end of the year, staff was able to make up the difference with additional revenues, creative cuts and working some personnel outside their classifications to fill in gaps.
In last week’s mid-fiscal-year budget review, Finance Director Soledad Ruiz-Nunez told the council the general fund is once again upside down. She pointed out that sales tax revenues are down by $50,000 from the same period a year ago and motor vehicle in lieu fees are down by about $13,500.
At the same time, the city’s electric bill has shot up by approximately $50,000 and the city has had to pay out vacation and comp benefits to retiring and other departing employees that were not placed in this year’s budget calculations.
Combined, the figures have created a general fund deficit of just over $304,000. That figure can be qualified: also in the budget is a one-time transfer of $165,000 in revenue to the general fund from the enterprise funds (water, sewer, etc.), which has not yet been transferred and reduces the deficit to about $140,000.
Meik told the council last week he and Ruiz-Nunez will bring back an “historical perspective: budget comparison to show how income and expense figures look during the first half and the second half of the fiscal year.
“This will hopefully give us a better idea about when our revenue goes up, down, or remains flat. We can get a better grip on whether or not we need to start making cuts now,” he stated.
That presentation will take place at Monday’s regular council meeting.
All four councilmen present at the study session favored a move back to the basics when it comes to their current goals.
“Our first charge is to provide basic services: water, sewer, garbage and public protection, including police and fire,” said Mayor Robertson.
On that note, Councilman Mark Cartwright suggested enhancements at the local water treatment plant, where a study is already being conducted. Meik said it should be ready for presentation to the council in the spring.A potential addition to the local sales tax emerge as the recommendation for helping to fund the local police department, which currently swallows up about 80 percent of the general fund’s revenues. Councilman Ray Lerma said if the city determines it needs the current level of public safety service, alternative funding must be studied.
Mayor Robertson also asked for a cost percentage comparison between Corcoran and other surrounding cities regarding public safety service. The sales tax initiative could provide a quasi enterprise zone funding umbrella for the cash-strapped department, he commented.
Meik said the information provided by the council will be used to finalize a list of goals to be pursued for the next two years.