Merced City Council to give $194 million budget a closer look; youth advocates to present plan

Merced’s budget could be put under a microscope Monday during another study session.

The first study session was an introduction, but this session is supposed to delve into the details, and youth advocates will be watching closely.

Finance Director Brad Grant will give a update of the city’s economic state, along with a review of the five-year forecast before City Manager John Bramble presents highlights of department budgets. The session is 6 p.m. at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.

The budget is online at the city’s website, www.cityofmerced.org, and a hard copy is available at City Hall. Time for public comment on the budget is scheduled during today’s session.

On May 5, Bramble presented the City Council with the first draft of the $194 million 2014-15 budget, 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.

Youth advocates have drawn up a plan that they say is a feasible option in which Merced can improve activities and job-skills programs for young people.

Advocates say services that keep young people busy and give them job skills will pay off by decreasing crime and improving opportunities for them.

Late last month, the Invest in Our Youth coalition asked the council for money to expand or begin three programs for young people. The coalition is made up of area nonprofits.

The proposed $232,200 would cover a six-week program through the Merced County Office of Education. The money would pay for bus passes, uniforms and other program costs, as well as the wages of up to 100 students who would go to work for local businesses.

The proposal also called for an additional $180,600 to be put into the McCombs Youth Center, which the Boys & Girls Clubs of Merced County occupies. The cash would pay for the cost to stay open two hours later during the week and to open on weekends.

The third request was for money for two employees each at McNamara and Stephen Leonard parks. The cost would depend on the number of hours the parks were open and whether the city contracted out the staffing.

Advocates have asked the council to be their partner and work out the details for youth funding.

City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link is at www.cityofmerced.org. Comcast’s Government Channel 96 will broadcast the meeting live.