Tulare’s budget remains healthy in light of inflation

Despite record inflation, Tulare looks to hire two additional police officers and make needed maintenance updates in the 2022-23 fiscal year

TULARE – Despite inflation induced cost increases, the city of Tulare will be able to move forward without any cutbacks looking into the next fiscal year. The proposed budget will come back to council one last time before receiving approval.

As it stands now, in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the city of Tulare is planning to have a balanced budget,  fully fund needed vehicle and equipment updates and add six additional employees. 

“It’s very heartening to be in a budget cycle where major cuts aren’t required, where levels of service are going to be maintained and we’re even going to be hiring two additional police officers,” Josh McDonnell, Tulare deputy city manager said. “That’s a really good place to be and I’m happy with that, I really hope that this continues.”

At the June 7 city council meeting, McDonnell presented council with the proposed general fund budget for the next fiscal year. The general fund is the city’s least restrictive fund and used for the majority of  expenses that are not specific to another fund. It also takes the most amount of time to budget for that reason. This budget was originally submitted by the city’s finance director Darlene Thompson before she officially retired on June 3.

McDonnell explained the city’s general fund is sitting in a good place with about a 30% reserve. The city usually likes to keep the general fund reserves at 25%, allowing the city to survive without any revenue for three months in a pinch.

McDonnell said four years ago the city was not in as healthy of a position. The city is in a much better financial state for two reasons. A 2018 court ruling allowed cities to receive sales tax from internet purchases in their jurisdiction. “[Receiving internet sales tax] made a huge difference in terms of the sales tax that the city is collecting,” McDonnell said. And, because inflation continues to rise, the amount of sales tax the city receives is increasing as well. 

While rising inflation has been a help for the city recently the city is expecting costs for them to go up as well. For example, the city has budgeted for a 10% fuel increase. 

As McDonnell presented the proposed budget, he advised the council to adopt the budget allowing for two additional police officers. Their salaries will come out of the general fund along with a new full time position for an animal control kennel technician. McDonnell said the officers will be at least in part dedicated to the city’s emergency homeless shelter once it is completed.

As for the kennel technician, the city has deemed it necessary to hire a full time employee, rather than part time or hourly basis, which is what was occurring. The additional employees mentioned in the budget were job reclassifications according to McDonnell.

In addition to hiring new employees, the projected budget allows for the city to complete much needed updates to the city’s equipment. This budget will allow the city to maintain their regular vehicle replacement, which is an area that is often overlooked when the city lacks funding according to McDonnell.

“I literally had a case where there was a building inspection vehicle where you could see the road through your feet as you were driving,” McDonnell said. “We’re able to replace anything that’s a safety hazard such as that. So that is very good for our staff, obviously, to make sure everybody’s nice and safe.”

Since the pandemic, the city has not hosted any recreational activities for the community. McDonnell said it is exciting to have these activities scheduled and fully funded for next year. Tulare will be bringing back activities from tiny tot T-ball to adult softball and all aquatic activities as well. McDonnell was also excited to announce the Best Club, a recreational daycare program, is going to be making a comeback. This year it will be fully funded thanks to a grant from the state obtained by the school district. 

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