Lindsay lags behind on budget passage

Lindsay city manager Joe Tanner says there are too many unknowns to pass a budget before June 30, expects to pass 2020-2021 budget at the end of July

LINDSAY – Cities all over the state are doing their level best to set their budgets for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which starts next month, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Lindsay on the other hand is taking their time to try and get it right, even though they’ll be a month into the fiscal year before passing their budget.

First year city manager Joe Tanner said during the Lindsay City Council’s June 9 meeting that staff has had trouble anticipating 2020-2021 budget projections. And that has ultimately delayed the rollout of the budget.

“We had too many unknowns to move forward with the budget at the normal time,” Tanner said.

A city staff report from the June 23 Lindsay City Council meeting notes that there are several aspects of the budget that will be impacted.

“Most, if not all, revenues will be negatively impacted at different points of the upcoming fiscal year…Sales tax, property tax, hotel tax, permits, Wellness Center memberships will be affected negatively,” the report stated.

According to a Lindsay report, staff will present their draft budget and five year capital improvement plan at the July 14 meeting. Then present the final form of the budget for approval at the July 28 meeting. Tanner said that he is confident they will keep the schedule, and barring an emergency that requires council approval things should go smoothly through July.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t stick to the schedule as is,” Tanner said. “We aren’t planning any big expenditures. If we do we would take that to the council…we’ll have more routine expenses.”

Cities have by in large observed June 30 as the deadline to passe the next fiscal year’s budget. But according to Lindsay city attorney Mario Zamora, that is not necessarily a requirement. Zamora states in a letter to Tanner that California government code provides budget requirements for counties but there is nothing explicit for cities to adopt a budget before the end of the current fiscal year. However, the Lindsay city charter states if the council does not pass a budget by the beginning of the new fiscal year then the city will adopt the recommended budget of the city manager.

“The language in the [Lindsay Municipal Code] and California Government Code would support a strategy of moving forward temporarily without a council adopting of the proposed budget,” Zamora’s letter states. “We recommend bringing your recommended budget to the council as soon as possible, with the understanding that an adopted budget will follow in the coming weeks.”

What’s in the budget

Tanner could describe Lindsay’s draft budget in one world, “drastic.” According to the first year city manager revenues in the general fund are expected to be “drastically reduced.” But he had managed to save some costs on the expenditure side of the ledger.

“It’s a little bit better [than I thought]. This year we are expecting to break even on revenues and expenditures. And next year, going through the items we were able to reduce a lot of the line items and provide basic service levels. So, I’m happy with that,” Tanner said.

Items that he trimmed from the budget were travel and training for administration, freezing unneeded positions and a reduction in planning services.

Still, by the time it is all said and done, Tanner expects to see the city’s general fund shrink from $5.8 million at the end of this month, to $5.4 million by the end of next June.

While the general fund is expected to contract by nearly half a million dollars, expenses in pensions and health care not slowing down. Tanner said the city is expecting to see a 7% to 9% jump in both this coming year. He added that CalPERS is expected to jump by even more the following year. Ideally, he said, the city would rather see a 3% to 4% increase.

Despite the increase in CalPERS and health care, and cuts on the expenditure side, Tanner said that public safety is expected to be left untouched in this budget. He added that staff did not want to hack away in light of the budgetary uncertainties the pandemic has left them in.

“We didn’t bring the axe out with the budget. It was more surgical I’d say. A little bit here and a little there,” Tanner said.

Road to wellness

One item under dire straits in this year’s budget is sure to be the Lindsay Wellness Center. Director of the wellness center, Lisa Davis said there is little chance the recreation department will make as much money at the end of this fiscal year, as they did last fiscal year.

“We are looking at what we can we do to generate as much revenue as possible. Are we going to generate as much as we did last year? There’s no way,” Davis said during the June 9 Lindsay City Council meeting.

Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health gave the official greenlight for gyms to reopen on June 12, but they still cannot allow in crowds the way they had prior to COVID-19. According to Davis, she hopes to welcome back members on June 29.

Until then Davis said her staff is cleaning and disinfecting all of the equipment and other commonly touched places. As for when members can rejoin the center, Davis said there is a rigorous activity and cleaning schedule.

Water therapy and aerobics classes can be hosted on the shallow end of the pool because the therapy pool does not allow for adequate social distancing. And she recommends that attendants bring their own equipment. Davis said that the classes will be available in the morning until 10, then the center will have to close in order to disinfect all necessary equipment for an hour.

The Wellness Center director added that she hopes to book party reservations of no more than 10 people per group to use the pool. She said that groups would come in for an hour and would be spaced 10 minutes apart to avoid groups coming in at the same time, and leaving at the same time. Davis added that the center would then close down and again clean and disinfect for an hour before reopening the pool for an evening session.

By the time of the June 9 meeting Davis had not solidified a price structure that would account for the added cost of cleaning the facility at least twice per day.

In terms of the fitness side of the wellness center, Davis said they will open at 5:30 a.m. and close at 10 a.m. to allow adults to use the equipment. She said they will close the center to clean all the necessary equipment in the fitness area and then reopen the fitness center for kids to use in two 45-minute shifts.

“What we can do is carve out a chunk of time for a fitness class…they can get the wiggles out for 45 minutes,” Davis said.

The schedule would be 11 a.m. to 11:45 where parents could bring their kids to the center. The center would close for 15 minutes for clean up before the second wave of parents and kids come in between noon and 12:45 p.m. Davis said classes would include “kid zumba” and some other circuit work among other workouts.

She added that the cost of the fitness class would include lunch provided by the Lindsay Unified School District.

The wellness center would then reopen for an evening session for adults.

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