Interim City Administrator Robert Perrault addresses the Guadalupe City Council during Tuesday's meeting. 

The Guadalupe City Council reviewed a draft budget for its next two fiscal years, which includes an increase in general fund money spent on public safety and calling for the hiring of a part-time recreation coordinator.

The preliminary budget, which covered the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, indicates city staff expects continuing improvements in the city’s financial condition.

While the city’s general fund will begin the 2019-20 fiscal year with a $44,000 deficit, a positive fund balance is expected by the start of the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to the staff report prepared by Interim City Administrator Robert Perrault.

The $44,000 deficit is $120,000 less than where it stood at the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

General fund expenditures on public safety are expected to increase, primarily due to a reorganization of the police and fire departments that was proposed by Chief Michael Cash earlier this year.

The draft budget calls for a 12.5% increase — or $221,696 — in the Police Department budget from 2018-19 to 2019-2020, going from $1,773,159 to $1,994,855.

General fund expenditures for the Fire Department are budgeted to increase 15.5%, or by $96,914 during that same time period, going from $622,158 to $719,072.

The increases for both departments primarily covers additional salary and retirement plan expenses.

The budget also calls for $6,127 from the general fund to cover a portion of the rent for the Guadalupe library.

While the city’s finances are anticipated to improve over the next several years, Perrault said grant funding and one-time revenues from residential building projects benefited the general fund during the past fiscal year.

Perrault said the city should consider a sales tax measure in 2020 to ensure financial stability for the long term.

In addition to the draft budget, Perrault presented financial policies that he encouraged the council to adopt.

“Most cities have financial policies and they’re in place to guide how the city operates on an ongoing basis from a fiscal point of view,” he said. “It outlines exactly who has the authority to make budget decisions.”

The policies also discuss reserve funds, which Perrault hoped the city would have the ability to begin building in the next several years.

The draft budget noted that a recent decision by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will likely result in a change in some of the fund balances.

In May, a PERB administrative judge ruled the city violated state collective bargaining law when former City Administrator Cruz Ramos declined to grant previously-negotiated step increases to employees represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620 without giving the union prior notice or the opportunity to bargain.

The judge ordered the city to pay employees denied step increases the wages they would have received with 7% interest.

“We are going to have to make certain adjustments to make sure employees are compensated,” Perrault said.

The City Council plans to adopt the final version of the budget during its June 25 meeting.

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.