Council to pass budget tonight

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council is expected to approve a budget tonight, after hearing a cautiously optimistic report from staff at last week’s budget hearings.

“As the city moves forward from the economic downturn and looking for a stabilized, and gradually increasing, economy, the city manager is committed to maintaining a balanced budget and incrementally establishing a 20-percent general fund reserve,” states a report co-signed by City Manager Dennis Speer and Finance Director Rachelle McQuiston.

For the last several budget cycles, the city budget has been significantly impacted by the loss of redevelopment funds, underperforming revenues, growing pension costs and decreased property values — each of which has contributed to a state of fiscal flux.

Last month the city also learned of an apparent $900,000 debt to the county to offset an apparent overpayment to the city in RDA funds. However, the staff report noted that the city will be able to absorb the $300,000 payment due this year while maintaining a $900,000 reserve.

“The FY-14-15 outlook is looking positive, with an expected small increase in revenue in evidence and the stabilization and minimal growth expected within the city,” reads the report. While property taxes came in marginally lower, the city saw an increase in both sales tax and Measure L revenue streams.

Internally the city has also evaluated its spending trends and work distribution and made adjustments to each department.

The only personnel changes this year come from the police and finance departments. RPD will replace one patrol officer with a captain, and the finance department will replace an accountant with an account clerk and account technician.

“The proposed budget has taken a conservative approach in estimating revenues and closely monitoring spending,” states the budget report. The city will continue to present monthly budget projections in order to monitor spending and make adjustments where appropriate.

“This budget document was created based on assumptions that revenue streams and expected price levels will remain stable, and not foreseeing any significant cuts in revenue or increases in expenditures. If any significant issues arise, the budget will be revised and brought before the council for discussion.

“Uncertainty of the future necessitates continual monitoring of the budget, as well as considering the possibility of further reducing next year’s budget throughout the fiscal year in preparation for the following year’s budget.”

The report notes that watching state averages and reviewing all general fund-subsidized programs will be among the factors that drive the monitoring process.

“We will continue to provide up-to-date information throughout the year so as we conduct city business we can make informed decisions. With your direction we hope to implement solutions to ensure the viability of this city and reduce the dependence on one-time-only funds,” says the report.

For additional agenda items, see related story, this page. A complete copy of the budget is available online at ridgecrest-ca.gov.

Story First Published: 2014-06-04