Council OKs budget, with revisions

Council OKs budget, with revisionsBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council gave final approval for its 2019-2020 budget last week with some minor alterations. The budget was unanimously approved after a brief discussion during Wednesday’s city council meeting.

City staff projects that the city’s general fund will take in about $13.9 million dollars during the fiscal year – roughly $1,400 more than anticipated expenses. The projected general fund includes about $4.4 million in Measure V funds to augment public safety and streets funding.

Changes include a decrease in usage fees for the Kerr McGee Sports Center, which will be primarily borne by local sports organizations. Proposed fees were reduced from $300 per week down to $100, with plans to grow the fee over time (as discussed in last week’s edition).

The reduction in usage fees will be offset by a 15-percent increase in business license fees. While the city has recently taken criticism for not being “developer friendly,” city fees have not changed since 1980.

Retail sales and professional fees will increase from $60 to $69 and licensed contractor and handyman fees will increase from $66 to $76. Staff noted that if the city had implemented its authorized Consumer Price Index increase each year since 1980, fees would be $248 and $271 respectively.

The majority of the city budget (roughly 56 percent) is allocated for personnel, about 64 percent of which is for wages. Annual salaries (without benefits) for top city employees include City Manager Ron Strand at $171,995.20, Police Chief Jed McLaughlin at $130,659.60, Public Works Director Bard Lower at $130,659.60, Finance Director Cheri Freese at $112,019.52 and Parks & Recreation Director Jason Patin at $85,668.84.

While the budget is currently balanced, it is always treated like a “living document,” said Strand. The council will probably revisit the budget, at least for mid-year adjustments. See ridgecrest-ca.gov/council-agendas and previous editions for more information.

The Ridgecrest City Council will not meet July 3. The next meeting is expected to be on Wednesday, July 17, 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Pictured: City Manager Ron Strand and Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens during a budget discussion — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-06-28