NEWMAN - The city’s annual budget is funding a number of new positions.
City Council members recently approved a preliminary budget which will serve as a spending blueprint for the coming fiscal year. A final budget will be adopted at mid-year.
Some of the new positions were added during the current fiscal year but are reflected for the first time on the annual budget, Holland noted.
Additional police staffing, the expansion of a part-time recreation director position into a full-time community liaison/rec director position and expanded hours for part-time recreation staffers are among the budget additions which will translate into a higher level of service for the community, said City Manager Michael Holland.
When its current round of hiring is completed, Holland told Mattos Newspapers, the Newman Police Department will be at its full complement of 13 sworn officers for the first time since the recession. With full staffing, Holland said, he anticipates that the department will be able to designate an officer to focus on the downtown/commercial area of the city.
“We think we have the right person for that job,” he commented.
Other areas of service have increased as well in recent years. Code enforcement now has two full-time officers with distinctly defined duties, and the city is ramping up its community events.
“These are all new or expanded services to the community,” Holland stated. “Our recreation program is expanding, and we are providing more events for the community. We are just trying to bring (more) activities to Newman, and that requires staff time and investment.
A solid economy and growing general fund revenue sources are helping make the added staffing possible.
The city has seen gains in property taxes and sales tax revenues, which along with motor vehicle license fees are key income sources for the general fund - which is the discretionary money the city has available to offer new programs and services.
“We have had some growth in our property taxes, in terms of valuation and the total number of units that have been constructed. That will kind of level off (as the final existing subdivisions are completed) but we think the values will hold steady,” Holland said. “With the economy moving at a good clip, we have been able to collect a little more sales tax.”
The city anticipates receiving $825,000 in property taxes in the 2019-20 fiscal year. That represents a $25,000 increase from the projected current year revenues - but reflects a significant increase from just three years ago, when the city took in $705,000 in secured property tax revenue.
The budget also projects sales tax revenues of $550,000 in the coming fiscal year. That reflects a $40,000 increase over the amount of sales tax revenue projected in the current-year budget.
The preliminary budget forecasts a $629,000 general fund deficit.
Holland said, however, that he is not overly concerned with that number due to the conservative approach taken by the city in its budget forecast.
“If you look at our last five to six budgets, that is probably pretty close to the numbers that we always start at, but when we close out the year are pretty close to being balanced,” he commented. “Sometimes we are a little to the positive; sometimes a little to the negative.”
The city does have healthy reserves which can be dipped into if need be, Holland added.
The adopted budget shows a $2.6 million general fund reserve going into the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Furthermore, Holland pointed out, the budget includes $250,000 in one-time expenses which will have an impact on the city’s financial status this year but are not ongoing costs.