Chowchilla adopts budget | The Merced Sun-Star

Chowchilla City Council unanimously adopted a $23.8 million city budget last month, which shrinks the city’s spending by about $4 million from last year.

City officials anticipate spending less this year because of the way they account for grant funding, said Rod Pruett, the city’s finance director. The council approved the budget on June 23.

This is Pruett’s first budget season working for the city. He said the city’s previous team would budget entire capital projects into the spending plan, while he’s only accounting for the portion of the project that will be completed in the fiscal year.

He said that accounts for the $4 million difference between this year and last year’s budget. “A lot of it has to do with capital projects, and them budgeting the whole entire expense on last year,” he said.

The general fund’s spending of $6.8 million will outpace its revenues by about $15,000, but city leaders said they will cover the difference by dipping into city reserves.

Despite the decrease in spending, the city expects general fund revenues to increase, buoyed by a nearly 25 percent increase in sales tax revenue. Property taxes and vehicle license fees are also projected to increase.

The budget fully funds the police and fire department. The Chowchilla police now number 26 full-time and seven part-time positions, which is an increase of one officer since last year. That officer’s salary is paid through a grant.

Chowchilla’s fire department is made up entirely of volunteers except for the chief.

City leaders look to spend about $4 million on capital improvement projects, including work on Well 15 and the wastewater treatment plant and other projects.

Last year’s fund for capital projects was more than $6.7 million.

Brian Haddix, the city administrator, said the budget should allow the city to pay down debt and to move projects forward. “Rod’s doing a great job in the area of controlling expenses and trying to enhance the level of understanding of the budget with the council,” he said.

Haddix joined the city about two weeks before the budget came before council.

Chowchilla has now passed five years of budgets that are structurally balanced. The city has improved its standing from several years ago when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, which it considered as recently as 2011.

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