Budget requests under examination in Merced

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comMay 20, 2014 

The city’s budget will once again get scrutiny today during a budget study-session meeting, where new requests from the Merced City Council will be reviewed.

The session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St. It is the last meeting scheduled to discuss the budget, but the council could decide to hold a couple of additional meetings in June.

The City Council saw the proposed budget earlier this month, but requested extra information on changes some of the members would like to see before adopting the document. City Manager John Bramble prepared a follow-up report with much of that information for the study session.

The City Council has been looking at the first draft of 2014-15’s $194 million budget, which would be an increase of about 1.5 percent from last year. The budget has $40.7 million in discretionary money from the general fund and Measure C dollars.

The general fund pays for police, fire, recreation and other services. Under the proposed budget, it would end with a balance of $109,167.

Any addition or change to the budget would require the city to move money already assigned to some other job, supply or service.

The City Council asked what it would cost to hire an additional employee in the Economic Development Department, which is made up of the director and one associate. Hiring an additional associate would cost $90,259, according to the city manager’s report.

Hiring an additional associate would not necessarily speed up the city’s permitting process, where development could use the most help, according the report. One alternative would be to expand the city’s relationship with Chabin Concepts, an economic development and marketing firm.

Another request from the City Council asked for information on shaving about $232,000 from the $5.8 million budgeted for materials, supplies and services. If the money can be identified, it would be used for youth services. Whether that would provide an additional parks and recreation employee or more programs is unclear.

The materials, supplies and services budget is relatively small compared with years past, so it could be difficult to cut to find the extra money. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, the budget was $9.3 million.

The city manager’s follow-up report includes a line-item accounting of the funds paid for through the general fund, and how cuts to each fund would affect the city. The report will be part of the discussion at the study session.

The proposed Parks and Recreation Department budget, which includes youth services, is $1.2 million. It has also shrunk from the 2007-08 fiscal year, when it was $4.3 million.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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