Exeter City Council approves millions in spending for capital improvement projects, focuses on increases to reserves
EXETER – Outside of being balanced there is a lot to look forward to according to the newly passed Exeter budget.
After a month of discussions, the Exeter City Council voiced their “yea” votes at their June 28 meeting. Finance Director Rainbow Moore had two main goals in developing the budget: balancing the general fund and increasing its reserves. She focused on sustainable city operations, resuming recreation services and improving the city’s operations over time.
The new two-year budget includes updates to the general fund and an ambitious capital improvement plan due to a major revenue increase from the 1% Measure P sales tax that was passed in 2020.
Measure P accounts for the main increase in revenue for the general fund, along with property taxes and utility user taxes. Thanks to Measure P, the city was able to pay for code enforcement and costs of recreation, allowing for a balanced budget and increased general fund reserves for the upcoming fiscal year.
In total, the general fund expects an increase of $807,747 in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Ten percent goes to salary and benefit increases for all city employees while another 20% goes to contract expenses.
The city council requested four additions to the budget after public hearings. All four made it into the final budget: $4,000 to the Chamber of Commerce, $2,500 to the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation, $5,000 to the Concerts in the Park Series and $3,500 to downtown Christmas lights.
Capital Improvement Plan
There are 48 proposed capital improvement projects for the next five years, and 40% are planned for the 2022-23 fiscal year costing $10 million in total. Along with replacing Fire Engine 11, updating and repairing city buildings and improving roadways, the city also plans to evaluate and rehabilitate wells E5 and E10, replace and maintain water and sewer lines and potentially consolidate the water system with nearby Tooleville.
The main update to the general fund is a $336,400 addition to the police budget for salary and benefit increases. Another $50,000 will go to improving operations.
Public safety goals include incentive programs to improve staff retention and recruitment, vehicle replacement, structured officer onboarding and training programs, obtaining a replacement K-9 for one that had retired and continued equipment upgrades and replacements.
The public safety department makes up 57.3% of the general fund’s expenditures.
Parks and Recreation
The parks and recreation budget received a $195,900 increase for renovations to Unger and City Parks, taking up 9.4% of the general fund’s expenditures. The parks department has also requested the completion of a comprehensive playground study.
The goals for the next two fiscal years are to implement an ongoing review of maintenance standards, develop plans for a second community park similar to City Park, prioritize tree trimming needs and develop a park master plan.
The recreation program was disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, resuming only in April 2022. The goals for the upcoming fiscal year include restoring a minimum of five youth sports throughout the year along with one adult sport funded by Measure P funding. In order to make it happen, the city plans to implement an online registration program and organize a feedback system for customers and staff.
The department is set to host a successful youth soccer program in July and August of 2022.
During the last budget cycle, the city completed the East Palm Street Reconstruction Project which included new pavement, accessible ramps, curbs, gutters and sidewalks and utilities adjustments to grade. For this, the city received the Outstanding Bike or Pedestrian Project Award at the 2022 Local Motion Awards.
For the next two fiscal years, the city has planned approximately 20 road and equipment replacement projects costing $6.2 million including completion of the Rocky Hill Drive and Firebaugh Avenue Improvement Project.
The city has over 30 capital improvement projects totaling $2,747,200 to improve the water and sewer infrastructure and overall Public Works operations.
Projects include expanding the organics recycling program, reducing water meter error rates to improve utility billing process, replacing 12 fire hydrants and developing strategies for regular maintenance of the water and sewer systems.