Colton developing 2017-18 fiscal budget

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Photo/Anthony Victoria: The Colton City Council during a meeting back in January 2017.

Colton officials are in the process of constructing a budget that takes into consideration pension costs, council expenses, and safety concerns.

Officials point out that despite receiving financial help through a General Fund Transfer– approved by voters last June–they need to be “proactive” in mitigating future troubles with city expenditures.

“We have money left over right now,” said Councilman Frank Navarro. “I don’t want to be the kid in the candy store saying, ‘I want this, I want that.’ I want us to be conservative and save.”

Measure D authorized the City Council to transfer roughly $11.7 million (or 18.9 percent) from its electric utility fund into its general budget to alleviate worries of a fiscal crisis.

Finance Director Stacey Dabbs explained during a Special Council Meeting on May 3 that the city could enter the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year with a revenue and expenditure budget surplus of $138,500 and a projected fund balance of $5.2 million.

Department heads and city officials are working diligently to curtail expenses and cut back on staff in order to mitigate concerns with meeting California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) obligations, which makes up 71 percent of general budget expenses.

Specifically, staff recommended eliminating council annual health benefits, dinner stipends, telecommunications, and reducing car allowances by half to accumulate to approximately $17,000 in savings, Dabbs said during the May 18 City Council meeting. That means the council will have an operating budget of $479,964 for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year–an approximate decrease of $20,000 from 2016-17.

“Despite the fact that CalPERS went up by almost $23,000, the council was able to mitigate that increase by reducing [expenses] and eliminating an office specialist position,” Dabbs remarked during the May 3 meeting.

Although there was a consensus on eliminating the office specialist position and the dinner stipends among the council, some members voiced their disapproval in reducing some benefits.

“We should not be touching our City Council office benefits,” Toro said. “I recommend that we have the reduction of the [specialist]. We can possibly look at reorganization.”

The City Council and staff also discussed cutbacks and changes to the police department. Dabbs–acting on previous recommendations from the council–confirmed that hiring a captain, eliminating both a vacant corporal detective and support services manager position, and adding administrative assistant, may accrue to more savings.

Chief Mark Owens argued that having a ‘second-in-command’ captain position helps the agency establish an administration arm that helps provide more resources and service to the community.

“Designating a second in command is a best practice for law enforcement agencies,” Owens said. “A second position gives us continuity. I feel that it’s important we get back to that level of command.”

The next budget workshop is scheduled for May 25 at 5 p.m at City Hall. The budget is expected to be adopted by June 6.

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