Kevin Valine

Modesto has plans for $5.2 million in its pocket

The city has closed the books on its most recent budget with what officials are calling a $5.2 million carryover, and it plans to spend it.

Officials say the savings primarily comes from the city not spending as much on employees as it budgeted, such as by not filling jobs as workers left. I’ll have more on the carryover after some key points on how the city may spend the $5.2 million.

The city wants to spend the money on one-time projects its calls investments in Modesto and for maintenance the city put off during the recession. At a recent workshop, the City Council reviewed about three dozen projects and narrowed the list to 18, which council members will consider at more workshops in the coming months.

Here are some of the projects the council is considering:

▪ $200,000 for streetlights along Crows Landing Road between Highway 99 and Hatch Road

▪ $2 million to upgrade and renovate Modesto Centre Plaza, the city’s downtown convention center, which opened in 1989

▪ $100,000 to install free wireless Internet service downtown in an effort to draw more people to the city center

▪ $352,000 for overtime and temporary workers to remove the lethal parasite mistletoe from city trees

▪ $7 million to replace fire station No. 1 – which opened in 1939 – and for a new public safety administration building

Council members will need to make some choices. The price tag for the 18 projects totals about $16 million.

Now, more about the carryover and the budget.

Officials say the carryover comes from the general fund, which makes up about a third of the city’s $340 million operating budget, and is from the 2013-14 budget year, which ended June 30.

For several years, Modesto has closed its budget year with a carryover of a few million dollars. In past years, the money was rolled into next year’s budget to help balance it. The city did not do that with the 2014-15 budget, which started July 1.

Officials say the carryover was not used because the 2014-15 budget is the first in many years that is truly balanced, with expenses matching revenues. In addition to not using the carryover, the city did not borrow from other funds to balance its general fund as it had done in past years.

They consider the carryover one-time money and do not want to use it for recurring expenses, such as hiring employees. Mayor Garrad Marsh said at the workshop that he expects the next carryover to be about $2.5 million.