Budget, sewer fee increase up for vote

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Approval of the next fiscal year budget and an aggressive wastewater fee increase for property owners — arguably the most high-profile discussion items of the year — will converge on tonight’s agenda of the Ridgecrest City Council meeting, set for 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

Diminishing revenues, state raids on local coffers, rising staff costs and a court order to pay back money borrowed from other city accounts have left the city with many challenges in building an executable budget.

A series of budget meetings in late April and early May revealed staff recommendations that leverage the passage of Measure L to fill a $1.3-million structural deficit revealed last fall — which came on the heels of a $2-million loss in revenue the previous year.

Although no employees have been laid off, city officials have warned residents that a reduction in service is unavoidable. The final decision on what services will be cut is expected to come up for council vote tonight.

(A budget summary was not made available at press time, but a list of revenue estimates, a staffing summary of full-time equivalent positions and a list of appropriations are included in the council agenda packet, available online at ridgecrest-ca.gov.)

The council will also hold a public hearing, as required by Proposition 218, to impose a five-year schedule of fee increases to fund repairs on the wastewater treatment facility. The proposed rate increased for property holders will triple the current rate over the next two years.

City Engineer Loren Culp is also scheduled to report on the assessment of the current system.

The consent calendar includes approval of a resolution updating the city’s Emergency Operations Plan.

Mayor Dan Clark will also present a proclamation honoring Daily Independent Reporter John Ciani and will give service awards to city employees.

The public is invited to attend. Proceedings will be broadcast live on Mediacom channels 6 and 41, as well as streamed at www.justintv.com (search Ridgecrest).

Story First Published: 2013-06-05