The City of Turlock could be creeping ever closer to a balanced budget and achieve it within a year, according to the Mayor Gary Soiseth’s recommendations.
Soiseth and Councilmember Steven Nascimento have served on a budget subcommittee tasked with sitting down with department heads to review the budget line-by-line.
As Turlock City Council plans one last budget workshop on Tuesday evening, in order to prepare to adopt the budget at the June 9 meeting, before the June 15 deadline, Soiseth has submitted several recommendations to Council in hopes of achieving a balanced budget within the year.
"These recommendations reflect my commitment to delivering efficient services and spending our city’s tax dollars wisely,” said Soiseth.
One key priority for the mayor is paying off debts, which will in turn create cost savings each year. Currently, the City of Turlock owes a remaining balance of nearly $5.5 million to the Turlock Police and Fire Departments’ Public Employee’s Retirement System (PERS).
At current interest rates, the outstanding debt is costing the City of Turlock an additional 7.5 percent each year.
Soiseth is recommending the City use $2.4 million from the sale of 900 N. Palm St. — the old police station — and surrounding facilities to the Turlock Irrigation District and just approximately $3 million from the general fund reserve.
“City will save about $615,367 per year by paying off these two outstanding liabilities,” said Soiseth in a news release. “It is recommended that the $615,367 be used to achieve a balanced budget and that any savings when future fiscal years close be invested back in the General Fund Reserve to increase the reserve levels.”
Even with using the general fund reserve to pay the outstanding debts, the Council-directed $6.5 million “hard reserved” will remain intact, along with an additional $1.3 million.
The original $34.7 million proposed 2015-16 budget that Council saw at the May 12 meeting had $825,953 in deficit spending, however that would drop to $135,586 with the mayor’s recommendations. With the savings, the 2016-17 budget would be $69,000 in the excess — a balanced budget.
"The savings to the City by paying of this debt will bring us to a balanced budget within one year,” said Soiseth.
In addition to debt paying, Soiseth is recommending the City of Turlock invest in its departments, which would be additions to the status quo budget.
One focus is in public safety, where if all recommendations are adopted, the Turlock Police Department would receive funding for the Street Crimes Unit and a new Crime Analyst — both of which would be paid for with AB 109 “Realignment Funds,” which has a current balance of $293,000.
The Turlock Fire Department would also receive some help, with three full-time firefighters being funded by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. If the grant is awarded to the City of Turlock, the three full-time firefighters would be at no cost to the City of Turlock until 2017-18.
Other recommendations by the mayor include adding a full-time Animal Services officer, whose salary would be offset by animal license revenue; implementing a $10,000 low income tree maintenance program; and re-budget the $50,000 for roads from the 2014-15 budget for crack seal road improvements, such as was done along Canal Drive.
If all of Soiseth’s recommendations are adopted by Turlock City Council on June 9, it will bring an additional $286,506 in costs to the the 2015-16 general fund budget — with $422,092 in deficit spending; in 2016-17, the budget would be $217,505 in the positive, with Soiseth’s recommendations, according to the City of Turlock.
At this time, these are the mayor’s recommendations and Turlock City Council will get the opportunity to speak on them at Tuesday’s final budget workshop.
The workshop will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.