GUSTINE - The city’s budget for the coming fiscal year funds a full-time recreation manager and the purchase of several vehicles.

And has money left over, which for the first time in several years will allow City Hall to designate a general fund reserve.

Council members recently put the finishing touches on the 2019-20 fiscal year spending blueprint, which includes a $2.27 million general fund budget that is projected to be $211,000 in the black despite hefty increases to health insurance and retirement premiums.

Tiffany Vitorino, who has been Gustine’s recreation coordinator on a 29-hour-a-week basis, will shift to the full-time position.

“We are hoping that we can do some more outreach programs and get more community involvement,” said City Manager Doug Dunford. “This gives us a wider ability to do more things. We don’t want to have her hands tied by limiting her hours.”

Additional staffing was a point of discussion during the budget process.

Dunford said that the city does plan to move forward with hiring an account technician to assist the city’s finance director. That position was technically approved in the prior year budget, but had not yet been filled.

Dunford told Mattos Newspapers that his initial hope was that the city would not have to fill that position, but said he subsequently determined that given the scope of work facing staff necessitates doing so.

The city also established a community development director position during the past fiscal year.

Council member Rich Ford asked about cross-training among City Hall staff and was advised by Dunford that the workload of employees does not allow that.

Even with new positions, Ford said, “you are saying that we are still short-handed. I don’t understand.”

Council member Joe Oliveira told Dunford that “we are putting the ball in your court to make things improve.”

Oliveira added that he would “love to see a new public works guy come on” as well.

Mayor Pat Nagy expressed his frustration with the pace of progress.

“One of things that frustrates me is how long (it takes) to get things done in government,” he stated. “Maybe if we can make things happen quicker on our end that would be a good thing.”

Dunford told Mattos Newspapers that he does not rule out bringing on another public works employee.

“That would have to be a conversation that council and staff has. It is a possibility,” he said.

The budget also includes funding for a new police car, a new public works vehicle and a new animal services truck. It also sets aside matching funds in the event that the city is awarded a grant for the purchase a new fire engine.

The city is balancing its general fund without a loan from the utility user tax (UUT) reserves for the third consecutive year, Dunford said, and is able to set aside a general fund reserve for the first time in years.

The council recently approved a policy setting 5 percent of the general fund budget aside as a special reserve - which in this case will amount to approximately $100,000 of the projected surplus.

“The special reserve fund will allow us to start saving money in case down the road the city runs into some financial hardship. Any use of those fund must be approved by a majority vote of the City Council,” Dunford noted.

“We tried to do this many years ago and it went by the wayside,” said Oliveira. “It is so important to have some backup in case of a downturn.”

In addition, the council voted to set aside $20,000 a year toward vehicle replacement.

“This is the first time in eight to 10 years that we are actually putting money away,” Dunford commented.

The reserves will leave about $80,000 in undesignated money in the city’s general fund budget for use as the council sees fit on things that come up during the the fiscal year. Any money not expended will go into the special general fund reserve at the conclusion of the fiscal year, Dunford said.

Overall, he told Mattos Newspapers, the city’s budget in on the upswing.

“We are showing steady increases in property tax and sales tax revenue, and (revenues from) the Southeast Gustine annexation will not hit our books until January. That is not reflected in the budget,” Dunford explained. “We have another 40 acres of annexation being discussed, and we are talking with prospective businesses about coming in. Those are all positive indicators.”