Council hears 2019-20 draft budget

Council hears 2019-20 draft budgetBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council took its first look at the city’s proposed 2019-2020 budget during a workshop meeting on Wednesday.

After factoring transfers out and carryovers from the previous year, the city staff estimates an available $13,894,356 in general funds, including roughly $1.1 million in unspent Measure V funds. With $13,892,938 in scheduled expenditures, the city has budgeted for about $1,400 less than its projected revenues.

Out of $4.4 million in anticipated Measure V revenue, $456,146 of it is unallocated for the council to use as the need arises.

City Manager Ron Strand gave a brief summary of where the city gets its revenues and where the money goes. Most of the city’s general funds are generated through Measure V (26 percent) followed by sales tax (21 percent) and property taxes (14 percent). Transient occupancy tax is projected to account for 9 percent of revenue, with the remainder coming from budgeted reserves, franchise fees, service charges, transfers and other sources.

Almost half of the city’s projected expenditures are for police services, with 20 percent for interfund transfers, 12 percent for Parks and Recreation, 8 percent for finance and information technology, and the rest for community development, public works, fire protection and other services.

Strand also addressed some challenges to the city’s finances, such as the lack of a cost-of-living increase. Many city employees haven’t received a cost-of-living adjustment for more than 10 years, a situation he said has caused some issues with employee retention.

Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said his department was also battling employee departures as officers are able to make much more in areas like California City, Inyo County and Fresno.

Members of the public voiced concerns that included the apparent lack of movement in negotiating for a new wastewater facility, a proposed increased charge to local youth sports organizations for the use of city facilities and a general lack of revenue.

“I understand your frustration, and I hear what you’re saying,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens. “It’s not fair. But we’re going to have $1,400 remaining at the end of what we’re proposing here … we’re trying to figure out how to make all of these ends meet on a shoestring budget.”

The Police, Public Works and Parks and Recreation Departments each gave a presentation on how their own funds have been budgeted for the fiscal years.

More information will be available in future editions of the News Review.

Story First Published: 2019-05-31