May 11, 2014

Turlock council takes up budget, sales tax

The Turlock City Council will take its first look Tuesday at a proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The City Council on Tuesday will get its first look at a proposed budget for 2014-15 and discuss the details of a possible half-percentage-point increase in the sales tax for transportation.

The draft budget shows $32.3 million in general fund spending for the year starting July 1, up from $30.5 million in the current year. This fund mainly goes to police and fire protection, both of which would increase slightly.

City Manager Roy Wasden said in a memo that sales and property taxes are on the rise.

“The city of Turlock has responded well in every way to the economic crisis that has engulfed our economy for several years,” he wrote. “The projections for fiscal year 2014-15 reflect an improving economic picture.”

The recovery still is not strong enough to prevent dipping into reserves, Wasden said. He proposes taking $950,419 from this source, which stands at about $13.3 million, mainly to replace capital equipment.

The city manager asked the council to provide input on a final budget to be presented at a later meeting. He also noted that all union contracts with city workers will be up for renewal over the next year, and the effects on the budget are not known.

Turlock is looking at a sales increase in the wake of a March decision by the Stanislaus Council of Governments against seeking a countywide measure. The council on May 27 could consider placing the proposal on the November ballot. It would need approval from at least two-thirds of voters.

Based on a council discussion last month, the city staff has proposed a half-percentage-point increase over seven years. The tax could end if StanCOG succeeds with a countywide measure over that time.

The vast majority of the tax income would be spent on maintenance and repair of city streets; no new routes would be funded. Up to 10 percent would go to the Turlock bus system to help make up for farebox revenue that is falling short.

The city staff has not yet compiled a list of street projects if the tax passes. The spending would be overseen by a committee of Turlock residents.

The city’s sales tax rate is 7.625 percent. The proposed increase would add 50 cents to a $100 taxable purchase.

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