Council decides spending of fiscal year-end surplus and ARP funds

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Councilmembers learned there was a surplus of over $460K at the Oct. 5 City Council meeting.

Shelly Gunby, director of financial management for the City of Winters, presented an overview of the 2021 fiscal year-end surplus at the meeting. Gunby said there is a revenue surplus of $469,000 in the general fund which she attributed in large part to the building boom the city is experiencing.

Developers pay a building permit fee when a building permit is issued. An ongoing review by the Express of building permit files for new subdivision homes has shown building permit fees range between $4,500 and $5,500 per home.

Gunby said when preparing the 2021 budget it wasn’t anticipated that building activity would continue during COVID-19 as robustly as it did and that about $335,000 of the surplus funds came from building permits. The $134,000 balance of the surplus is from property, municipal services and utility user taxes.

Staff made recommendations on how to spend the surplus funds. Gunby related that in July 2020, the city asked employees to defer their Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). Staff is now recommending giving city employees still employed a one-time payment of 2.5 percent of their base pay to compensate them for foregoing the 2020 COLA.

In addition, they proposed that part-time instructional aides who work in after school programs and are considered essential workers under the ARP guidelines also receive a one-time 2.5 percent stipend to acknowledge their efforts during the pandemic.

Gunby calculated the cost of the total compensation to be $89,932.73.

Staff also recommended directing $100,000 of the surplus toward CalPERS’ unfunded liabilities, $66,000 to post-employment benefit liabilities and expending approximately $40,000 to engage a consultant to review employee classifications and to conduct a compensation survey.

It was suggested that the balance of the surplus funds be left in the city’s operating reserve. Council members agreed and Resolution 2021-64 passed unanimously.

American Rescue Plan projects
Based upon population, the City of Winters is eligible for approximately $1.75 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars. The city received its first allotment of $875,000 in August with the second allotment of the same amount due to arrive in August 2022. ARP funds are required to be encumbered by Dec. 31, 2024 and expended on eligible projects by the end of 2026.

Two ARP projects were presented to council for initial feedback.

Digital Governance – The first project recommended for ARP funds was for an Information Technology (IT) assessment to evaluate the city’s hardware, software and IT technology. A general estimate of $25–$50,000 was given to conduct an initial assessment purposed to identify system strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

Upgrading to a new website, preparing the transfer of content from the city’s current website and adding an online business platform would utilize an estimated $75–$95,000 of additional ARP funds.

Downtown Area – City Manager Kathlee Salguera Trepa dubbed this the “Downtown Visioning Project” which includes outdoor dining, parking and dealing with alley trash dumpsters. Trepa recommended retaining a consultant estimated to cost $75,000 to help project manage and engage community input to develop a vision and a policy for the downtown environment.

A second Downtown Visioning Project was discussed for the development of the empty lot between Ace Hardware and Yolo Pharmacy on Main Street. The total estimated cost to convert the city-owned lot into what has been envisioned to be an art park was estimated to be $370,000.

The city is working with resident and former lot owner Valerie Whitworth, who has nicknamed the project “H’Art Park,” to secure a Rural Recreation and Tourism Program grant matching 20 percent ($75,000) to use toward developing the park.

The concept presented is for the park to be a community gathering place and to present art, art classes, presentations and to host live performances. The use of $280,000 of ARP funds would be earmarked toward the project if the matching grant is approved.

The grant application is to be submitted by Nov. 5 with a response anticipated in April.

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