Turlock City Council failed to pass a budget on Tuesday for the next fiscal year which begins July 1, as they split 2-2 in a vote on the proposed budget in the absence of council member Rebecka Monez .
The proposed budget of $51.7 million for 2022-2023 includes substantial growth in expenditures and revenues. An anticipated revenue increase of 10% over last year is primarily due to property taxes and Measure A funds. The addition of 53 full-time positions and resulting labor expenditures represent the majority of new spending for 2022-2023.
One of the major points of contention in the council’s budget is how the remainder of the city’s $15.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are allocated. City Council has had many public discussions and a few community forums to get input on how to spend single-use federal COVID funds. Unlike CARES Act funding, which was intended for local governments to use to respond to the short-term response to COVID-19, American Rescue Plan Act funds can be used by the city to help households, small businesses, non-profit organizations and industries negatively impacted economically by the pandemic. The city can also use bailout law funds to invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
“We have certain positions that require ARPA funds to be used for salaried positions and I just don’t think it’s good policy to use one-time funds to fund current expenses. I know my colleagues have said so, but the budget we are presenting here calls for that action,” said Council Member Andrew Nosrati.
Nosrati also said he opposes spending ARPA funds on the time-limited garbage fee grant and donating $140,000 to Turlock Gospel Mission for homeless services without some form of support. oversight on how funds are used and a measure of success.
Council member Nicole Larson also had issues with how ARPA funds are used in the budget, as well as how Measure A funding is used and the lack of allocation of cannabis pilot program to youth programs.
“Throughout this living document, I think the staff have done a very good job of listening to the Board’s priority, with the Board being the majority of the voice here…However, as we have gone through this process of anticipation of how we’re going to design our fiscal year, we’ve had a lot of decisions that have been made that I, in the opinion of my seat on the board, are not in the best interests of the whole ARPA is used to fund positions and we are using a large amount of funds, over $4 million, to only cut $5 off our garbage bills rather than creating a real meaningful program and affordable for those on low incomes or struggling to make ends meet as we increase waste rates.
“I think it speaks to the preparation or thought that goes into these decisions and the feedback we received that obviously wanted us to rethink that. While I want to be an absolute team player when it comes to the direction this Council takes, because that will be the direction, I can’t sit here and act like some of these decisions haven’t had the possibility of being re-discussed or re-evaluated for the good of our community.
“We have funds in our cannabis fund that were designed for youth programs, which are still not designed in this budget when we had a lot of funds to discuss having absolutely adequate staff in our service parks and really smart people on our staff. who can design a fantastic program or even allow it to be applied by the community at large with our nonprofit organizations. There has been no movement on that and simply because, in my estimation, because it comes out of our cannabis pilot program. This is unfortunate and discouraging, as it has the potential to make a difference in the lives of many children in our community.
“And we have the most road funds in our entire history as a city. They are not many; they won’t finish our roads tomorrow, however, now we have the opportunity to plan with funds we actually have access to and can rely on. But rather, we’re trying to redo our entire road system in a very, very short time, which in my estimation is just going to cause a lot of problems and cause a lot of change orders. With this estimate, we have the ability to step back and really plan for the long term rather than trying to fix short term issues,” Larson said.
Mayor Amy Bublak said failing to pass a budget could become a problem for the state. She also said she believes citizens are satisfied with how Measure A funds are being spent.
“The funds from measure A, we have already done that. You wanted roads, we put it in roads. You wanted the police and fire department, we got it. Everything we said we would do, the parks, we put in there. So to say that people are not happy with measure A, I don’t hear anything but that we are safer, the roads are starting to be repaired…” Bublak said.
The budget will come back to Council for a vote, most likely at its June 28 meeting.