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Tuesday, Jul 08 2014 01:26 PM

Tehachapi budget solid for 2014-15

Tehachapi city staff presented what it called a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year, all part of its five-year budget plan during a special City Council meeting on June 23.

The budget presented to the council showed a general fund revenue of $6.23 million and $6.22 general spending plan.

City staff predict its revenue stream to include $2.4 million in sales tax, $1.09 million in vehicle license fees, $862,362 in property taxes, $550,000 from hotel bed taxes, $350,000 in project management service fees, $180,00 in franchise taxes, $150,00 in construction service fees, $107, in business license fees, and $89,632 from public safety taxes.

This reflects the fiscal year that just ended on June 30.

Overall, the city revenue stream is estimated to be almost $17 million:

* $2.92 million from water revenues

* $214 million from sewer service revenues

* $1.38 million from the Tehachapi Airport

* $1.33 million from transit and refuse

* $1.44 million from state gas tax and Transportation Development Act funds for streets.

* $231,005 from development fees

* $1.31 from funding for projects

City Manager Greg Garrett stressed to council and residents that revenue sources for the upcoming fiscal year did not include the planned Walmart Supercenter.

"These sources are knowns and absolutes," Garrett said.

Across all funds, from general to water and sewer, the city expects to spend $16.8 million.

Of general fund expenses, the Tehachapi Police Department takes the lion's share at $2.9 million, followed by general government for $803,408 and engineering for $643,795.

Finance Director Hannah Chung said personnel costs are the largest expenditures at 69 percent, or $4,285,595 for positions paid from the general fund. This is a $195.918 increase from the previous year.

Chung said city staff will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment for the upcoming year. Garrett added that this is due to the near-negligible increase in the living index Tehachapi uses to judge raises.

This is also based in part on the status quo in utility fees charged to city residents.

"All the merit-based increases are still in place," Garrett said.

However, employees will have to chip in an additional 1.5 percent for their retirement, reducing the city's requirement to pay the employee's portion of retirement. Garrett pointed out that the city implemented this strategy two years before California revised the CalPERs system.

According to Garrett and Chung, when all the bills are paid for the general fund, the city will have $3 million in hard cash left over.

"Our financial health is very stable," Garret said.

Revenues for the city's water department are expected to total $2.92 million, or $500,000 more than the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Expenditures have been budgeted for $2.86 million, or $700,000 more than the previous fiscal year. The city expects to sink $550,000 into the Snyder Well intertie as part of the water department project.

The city's airport has budgeted $1.38 million in revenue for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and $1.64 million in expenses, including $229,722 for personnel.

Major capital improvement projects in the upcoming road include the continuation of the Challenger Drive extension, improvements to the area around Curry and Pinon streets (funded with a state grant), $3.1 million over two years in improvements to the airport's taxi way, apron rehabilitation and drainage.

The city has also budgeted $35,000 for Kern County Animal Services, $82,730 for fire service protection fees with Kern County Fire Department, $66,000 for community promotion, $62,200 for two police vehicles and $80,000 for process water improvements.

The council approved the budget as presented in a 5-0 vote.

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