City of Winters expecting budget surplus

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The Winters City Council on May 18 received a budget update in preparation for the council’s approval of a fiscal year 2021-2022 budget in June. 

City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa kicked off the budget presentation, saying she was pleased to share that city staff is presenting a balanced budget for next fiscal year. Shelly Gunby, the city’s Director of Financial Management, said the city is anticipating a roughly $63,000 surplus in the current fiscal year.

Gunby noted the current budget projected about $5.5 million in general fund revenue, but staff is now projecting approximately $5.9 million in revenue, an increase of $421,364. There was also some increase in expenses, she said. 

About half of that increase in revenues, according to the staff report, is connected to building activity during the current fiscal year, which has been a more robust source of funds than was originally anticipated when the budget was approved last year. Much of the increase is also because of higher assessed property values than expected, which has increased city revenue gained from property taxes. 

Last year, Gunby said, the budget included significant cuts, including not replacing several positions including a police sergeant and a housing and economic development manager. Gunby said the budget was also balanced by pretty much closing down city recreation, including most of the pool’s programs. 

The city’s plan right now, Gunby said, is to use the surplus to help open up the city’s pool in June and use some of the estimated surplus savings for pool staffing and programs. 

Councilmember Bill Biasi asked about the possibility of improving the city’s sidewalks, a number of which he said were in bad condition, by increasing the Winters Public Works Department budget for sidewalks. Biasi also thanked Trepa for waiving a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment and the fire and police departments for cutting their budgets. 

Mayor Wade Cowan said the sidewalk fund was bumped up from $10,000 to $15,000 a few years ago, and he’d personally like to see it raised again to at least $20,000 given increases in the price of concrete. 

He said Winters is fortunate to have a great public works staff who are able to do most of the sidewalk repair itself, and that the city, in increasing the fund, would basically just be paying for materials. 

Cowan also said the city needs to think long-term about funding to hire staff for the new Winters Senior Center building. The city is hoping to receive funds from a Community Development Block Grant for that purpose, he said, but that’s a one-time pot of money. 

Gunby said the city tried to add a position in the upcoming budget, but couldn’t find a way to balance the budget when adding the cost of a full time staff member. The thought process, she said, is that the city would use the grant to pay for half of the position and look to include extra funding in the future, potentially when revenues next year are better known. 

“We all know they haven’t put shovels in the ground yet, and by the time they do we’re looking at at least 10 to 12 months most likely before we can swing the doors open,” Cowan said. “So we do have some time here to make that all happen. I just want to make sure everybody knows that it’s definitely a priority for us. We don’t want to open a senior center and not have staffing for it. That would be almost criminal, to me.”

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