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City Plan Shows 'Structural Surplus'
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Riverbank City Council has adopted a 2012-2013 budget that projects a structural surplus where the expenditures are less than anticipated revenues, although this has been achieved by pegging the reserve level at 9.2 percent rather than the 10 percent the council prefers.

"We will see a surplus. It's not big. But it's for the first time in a long time. I compliment you and your staff," said Mayor Virginia Madueno to city Finance Director Marisela Hernandez at the June 25 council meeting. She also thanked the citizens' budget advisory committee, saying she considered it a more valuable asset to the city than a treasurer.

For the current fiscal year the city is projecting $15,190,996 in total revenues (including transfers in for other funds) and expenditures at $17,341,497 including transfers out to other funds.

But the general fund, from which the city pays for vital services such as police, water and sewer service and parks and recreation, is projected to have revenues of $7,849,000 and expenditures of $7,797,725.

Approximately 64 percent of the revenues projected are expected to come from three major sources including sakes tax of $2,548,000, property tax of $1,100,000 and property tax in lieu of vehicle license fees of $1,349,000.

"It reflects the continuation of deep cuts in expenditures that have been implemented over the past three years and an ongoing commitment to control discretionary expenditures," City Manager Jill Anderson said in her cover letter for the budget. "As a result, I am pleased to report that the proposed budget is structurally balanced, with projected reserves exceeding projected expenditures."

However, she added, in addition to the reserve level being 9 percent rather than 10 percent, there are some issues that need resolution in this fiscal year. They include payment of an installment due on an economic development loan from Stanislaus County. The loan made several years ago for the downtown beautification project was for $500,000. The city is due to pay $100,000 this month but is negotiating to make the much lower payment of $35,000.

There is also the disputed payment of fees due for past fire district assessments on the Housing Authority property for which the city is responsible.

A third issue is the resolution of ongoing legal disputes that have cost the city an exceptionally high amount this past budget year and continue to produce attorneys' fees.

Expenditures are expected to drop $10,500 by savings made in employees' health insurance. The city will continue with its current provider (Blue Shield) through Dec. 31 and then will issue a request for proposals for a modified plan it expects to provide savings.

Starting with a "shortfall" of about $585,000 in the general fund, staff has been whittling it down to a current $100,700. The shortfall reflects the amount needed to make the 10 percent reserve requirement.

Of the expenditures expected to increase, the largest is in police services where costs will rise from $3,380,000 to $3,589,000. This represents the city picking up the cost for the fourth year of two sheriff's deputy positions covered for the last three years by the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (stimulus funds).

Several cost savings measures have brought down the original shortfall of $585,000.

An administrative clerk was promoted to the Local Redevelopment Authority at the former Army Ammunition Depot. Her position remains vacant with her duties reallocated to other staff members and the LRA paying her salary and benefits for a savings to the city of $79,000.

The vacancy at the Administrative Services Director post is currently filled by a part-time interim director. The city manager has proposed the position remain vacant, the current assistant clerk be reclassified to Acting City Clerk and a part-time personnel manager be hired for savings of $64,000.

The vacant fulltime administrative clerk for recreation position will be filled by part-time employees for six months, saving $27,000.

Further savings came from a reduction in contract services.

They included a cut in the Grover Landscaping contract of $23,000 with Alternative Work Program workers to perform maintenance at the smaller park areas beginning in August; a decrease in funding for a Public Information Officer position of $25,000; decrease in Economic Development assistance of $45,000; and forgoing bark replacement in parks for one year for savings of $12,000.