City of Tehachapi leaders proudly passed a five-year budget that saw a steady increase in four tax revenues categories, a potential increase in operation revenue for some enterprise funds, support for economic development growth, a pay raise for city employees, and possible funding for capital projects.
The City Council approved a roughly $21.7 million budget for 2019-2020 during a special June 3 meeting. The council also approved balanced budgets for five fiscal years through 2023-24.
“It’s balanced,” City Manager Greg Garrett said. “I want everybody to understand where the money is coming from and where the money is going to be spent — our capital projects and our goals for the next five years.”
The budget includes an itemized amount for the general fund, which covers the police department, public works, planning, building safety, accounting and other staffing needs. In addition, the water department, sewer, airport and refuse contribute to the budget.
The future housing development of Sage Ranch could contribute to a steady increase in sewer and water connection fee revenue over the next five years, when the development moves forward. More than $7 million in fees, if all the houses are built, could help the city with maintenance or improvements at Tehachapi’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, said Jay Schlosser, city development services director.
Garrett added, “When we spend money on design and drilling new water wells, when we spend money on increasing capacity at the plant, you want to make sure you’re not overobligating or underobligating. But we will never issue a building permit for something we cannot serve — that will never happen. Sage Ranch is a good project.”
Four tax revenue categories — sales tax, motor vehicle tax, lodging tax and property tax — are all expected to see a steady climb.
Projected revenue and fee increases for the next five years:
Sales tax: $2.7 million to $3.5 million
Motor tax: $1.2 million to $1.5 million
Property tax: $1 million to close to $1.3 million
Lodging tax: $750,000 to close to $900,000
The city of Tehachapi employs 91 full-time and part-time employees. Employees were given a 3.6 percent cost of living raise. The entry level police officer pay also increased.
“Our starting pay was significantly lower than a lot of our surrounding agencies that are our competition. So in order to remain competitive in our industry and attract quality personnel, we can bring our starting salary up considerably,” said Police Chief Kent Kroeger.
Additional full-time employees:
• Lead landscape maintenance
• Police officer
• Police technician
Positions increasing from part-time to full-time:
• Community engagement specialist
• Code enforcement officer
• Deputy public works director
• Public works analyst
Over the next five years, the water fund is expected to see an increase in revenue.
Revenue: $3.3 million to $3.7 million
Expenses: $3 million to $2.6 million
Tehachapi’s Waste Water Treatment Plant is being evaluated for how much the plant can process through a capacity study that is soon to be completed, said city Public Works Director Don Marsh.
“We have about, in theory, 30 percent of our capacity left,” Marsh said.
Over the next five years, the sewer fund is expected to remain steady.
Revenue: $3.5 million to $3.5 million
Expenses: $3.3 million to $2.3 million
The Tehachapi Municipal Airport is expected to see an increase of more than $2.8 million in funding coming from the Federal Aviation Administration over the next five years.
Revenue: $865,7171 to $2.8 million
Expenses: $933,784 to $2.7 million
Depreciation is not being counted as in previous years.
The FAA said in a 2017 Tehachapi Municipal Airport Land Use Inspection Report that "asset depreciation expenses may have been misapplied to capital assets that had been funded by FAA grants, thereby, recording an unpermitted expense that would have a negative impact in airport's net income."