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No new employees for El Centro in newly approved budget

August 02, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Calling it a "budget in progress," the El Centro City Council unanimously approved a two-year budget Wednesday that retains the current level of service with the same number of city employees.

For fiscal 2001-02, total revenues are estimated at $42.68 million, and expenses $42.68 million. For fiscal 2002-03, revenues are estimated at $48.4 million with identical expenditures.

The general fund could face two years of deficits, however.

City Manager Abdel Salem said the general fund had a reserve of $3.4 million to begin fiscal 2001-02, with expected revenues of $13 million and $1.4 million in so-called transfer-in money, for a total of $17.8 million. Total expenditures are estimated at $15.3 million, leaving $2.5 million to start fiscal 2002-03.

For fiscal 2002-03 total revenues are estimated at $17.26 million, with expenditures of $15.88 million, for a reserve of $1.38 million.

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Salem said the reserves only remain in place as long as the city does not take on any new expenditures.

Without the reserves, the city's general fund would have a $883,077 deficit in fiscal 2001-02 and a $1.15 million deficit in fiscal 2002-03.

The general fund is described as that fund used to account for resources traditionally associated with government that are not required legally or by sound financial management to be accounted for in another fund.

There are numerous new expenditures city department heads are requesting, however, from more firefighters to new vehicles.

To preclude such deficits, the City Council and city staff have discussed the potential for increasing revenues. Two ideas that would result in higher sewer and water fees to users include charging for water and sewer right of way, which could add $350,000 to the city's budget, and charging the water and sewer department for fire hydrant flushing, which could add $100,000.

Three revenue enhancing ideas that require a two-thirds majority vote in the city include an increase in property taxes, which could raise $8-10 million; a utility tax measure to fund police and fire protection, which could raise $2 million, and an increase of 1 percent in the local sales tax, which could add $3 million.

The council briefly discussed what the unfunded requests are, including the available revenue enhancements, but took no action. The council will hold budget workshops again in September to discuss the city's personnel and capital outlay priorities.

Capital outlays for fiscal 2001-02 are estimated at $5.2 million and at $820,000 for fiscal 2002-03.

Mayor Cheryl Walker told city staff to prepare a priority list based on staff contact with the public.

Councilman David Dhillon said his priorities are firefighting, police enforcement and animal control.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Grogan said in light of potential deficits in the general fund, it is time to consider increasing the sales tax by one-quarter of 1 percent. He said a sales tax does not affect the price of food or of running one's air conditioner and should thus not be a burden on lower-income residents.

"This is not something that comes lightly," he said.

Grogan said the money could then be used to further fund police, fire and new vehicles.

Councilman Jack Dunnam said he would support the budgets with the understanding that the council will meet with staff at workshops to discuss the personnel shortfall.

The city has had two workshops already.

The budget adopted Wednesday includes $100,000 to begin replacing 26 of the city's vehicles. The money will be paid over seven years. The budget also included $100,000 for certain capital outlays and two new staff positions approved by the council for fiscal 2000-01.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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