Serving the community since 1922

Workshop assesses and plans for 2023-24 budget

The City Council held a special workshop to review and discuss the 2023-24 budget before its final approval on June 20.

The total budget is $88 million, including $29 million in capital projects the city does not anticipate completing in the fiscal year 2023-2024.

The purpose of the budget workshop last week was to plan and allocate financial resources effectively, providing a framework for setting financial goals, managing revenues and controlling expenses.

"A budget helps individuals, organizations and governments make informed decisions, prioritize spending and achieve financial stability and success," Finance Director Isarel Perez-Hernandez said.

According to Perez-Hernandez, the general fund's financial health is positive, with the city projecting an unassigned fund balance of 47% over operating expenditures, exceeding the recommended practice of a minimum of 35% unrestricted fund balance.

"This projection is a healthy indicator of the general fund's strength and stability," he said.

City Manager Scott Hurlbert said, "All funds have reserves and exceed the reserve percentage policy."

The total budget for the general fund is $19.2 million; the total budget for the enterprise funds is $35 million' the total budget for the capital project fund is $29.6 million; and the total budget for the special revenue funds is $4.5 million.

The top four general fund revenues are property taxes, property taxes in lieu of VLF (vehicle license fees), sales taxes and Measure X.

Perez-Hernandez said that the general fund is a primary component of a city's budget. It is a central pool of money used to finance various governmental operations and services, such as public safety, education, infrastructure and administration.

"The general fund typically consists of revenue from taxes, fees, fines, and other sources, and it is managed to support the overall financial stability and functioning of the City of Wasco," Perez-Hernandez said.

The two departments that account for the largest percentage of general fund operating costs will be public safety and public works.

An enterprise fund is used to provide goods and services to the public and is primarily self-sustaining through user fees and charges for services.

"The purpose of enterprise funds (wastewater, water, solid waste, compressed natural gas, public transit) is to ensure financial independence and accountability for specific activities, such as utilities, transit system or other self-supporting operations."

Hurlbert added, "Enterprises are designed to be self-contained, that is the fees or rates paid into the fund, fully cover the expenses."

The start-up costs of the Police Department, that will be funded by ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) followed by Measure X.

"Ongoing operation will be primarily through the general fund, similar to the Sheriff's contract," Hurlbert said.

A total of 23 new positions are being recommended for consideration for the Police Department startup. The 23 positions include 13 sworn officers and 10 nonsworn staff.

The city is anticipating an allocation of $1.2 million in gas tax funding.

The State imposes a tax on each gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. These funds are apportioned to local governments according to the various provisions of the Streets and Highways Code.

"Local governments use these tax revenues for research, planning, construction, improvement and maintenance of public streets, highways and mass transit," Perez-Hernandez said.

The outcome of the budget workshop was a unified consensus to proceed with the recommended operating and new capital improvement program budgets."

The next steps will encompass the preparation of the budget documentation for City Council approval on Tuesday, June 20.

Perez-Hernandez said, "I want to emphasize the consistent theme of financial stability that runs through all our funds. We have worked diligently to maintain a strong financial position, ensuring the well-being of our organization and the services we provide to the community."

He added, however, that it is essential to remain vigilant and acknowledge potential economic threats that could impact our local economy.

"While we have successfully navigated past challenges, the finance team must proactively monitor market conditions, regulatory changes and emerging trends that could potentially impact our funds in the future."


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