Modesto budget hearing to focus on $12M gap

06/11/2013 12:45 AM

06/26/2013 2:32 PM

The Modesto City Council is expected tonight to hold a public hearing and adopt the proposed $344 million operating budget for the city’s 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The operating budget includes funding for water and waste-water operations. But most of the council’s attention will be focused on the general fund. That’s because — unlike the water and waste-water spending — the general fund is projected to have expenses of nearly $12 million more than its projected revenues of $104.6 million.

Mayor Garrad Marsh has proposed using nearly $10 million in one-time money, such as general fund reserves, and nearly $2 million in spending cuts to close the gap.

General fund revenues took a nose dive in the recession but have stabilized in recent years. For instance, revenues were $120 million in 2007 but have been $104 million to $107 million annually in the past four years.

Marsh has said Modesto needs a short-term revenue source, such as a temporary sales tax, while the city works on long-term economic development initiatives.

Last week, the council was presented with the results of a city consultant’s phone survey of 400 residents that showed strong support for a half-cent public safety sales tax or a 1 cent general-purpose sales tax. The results did not sway pro-business council members who believe economic development or cost cutting are better solutions.

Marsh’s 2013-14 proposed budget leaves the Modesto Regional Fire Authority with a deficit of roughly $750,000. He has said the authority can dip into its reserves just as Modesto is doing to balance its budget.

Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside has said the authority’s roughly $750,000 deficit was created by labor agreements Modesto negotiated with its firefighters, and that it’s not right for the city to walk away from those costs.

The authority was formed in 2011 when Modesto, the Stanislaus County fire warden’s office and the Salida Fire District entered into a joint powers agreement. Modesto provides about 80 percent of the authority’s budget and most of its personnel.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chamber, Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.

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