Lodi Deputy City Manager Andrew Keys unveiled the city’s proposed $59.6 million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year during Tuesday’s shirtsleeve session at Carnegie Forum.
The projection includes new monies from Measure L, a half-cent sales tax passed by Lodi voters last November that is projected to bring in an additional $5.2 million annually. The hike took effect on April 1, increasing the local sales tax rate to 8.25%.
Keys gave a five-year forecast for the general and Measure L funds, which play a crucial role in predicting the city’s financial climate and planning for city staff based on projected revenue and expenditures. Measure L was a big financial boost for a city that has struggled to keep pace with spiraling pension costs.
“Measure L does not have any restrictions, other than those that council has placed on the funds through fiscal policies, mainly that it can not be used to fund pensions,” Keys said.
The city is expecting to receive $12.9 million in sales tax in the upcoming budget year — up from $12.2 million in the current fiscal year.
Since 2013, the city has seen consistent growth in sales tax revenue as people began to purchase more coming out of the recession, Keys said. However, due to the pension crisis the city was looking at projected budget shortfalls — one projection had the city facing a $6 million deficit by fiscal year 2023-24 — in the coming years had Measure L not passed.
“When I first started here about three years ago, and we ran calibrations on the fiscal forecast, and even in the rosiest of circumstances we still were facing difficult decisions,” Keys said.
Without Measure L, the city would have been forced to make reductions across the board, including in the already understaffed public safety departments, which account for 64 percent of general fund spending.
But due to its passage, the city was able to shift costs for four police officers and five firefighters from the general fund to the Measure L funds, Keys said.
“When we introduced Measure L, we said that it was meant to maintain and enhance the community. These were the positions that could have been cut; that was the maintain portion,” City Manager Steve Schwabauer said.
Under the budget forecast, the city will be on solid financial footing to hire six new police officers, three new firefighters and a fire battalion chief.
The city also recommended the hiring of a facility superintendent, an assistant civil engineer, a risk technician, and a confidential administrative secretary.
“We have not finalized these staffing positions, but we are looking to fill them because we have had to contract out the work for them. In the long run, it will be more cost effective to fill the positions and keep the work in-house,” Keys said.
The city has forecasted steady growth through Measure L, which Keys believes will sustain the status quo, and provide more revenue by 2024-25. Through the city’s predictions, they have calculated the Measure L revenue will reach $5.698 million by 2024-25.
The city will present a more thorough budget analysis before the Lodi City Council during a city council meeting in June, which will finalize the city’s budget forecast for the 2019-20 budget.