Members of the Oakdale City Council adopted the preliminary fiscal year 2020-2021 budget at their final meeting in June, but the action was largely overlooked. That, because the session featured more than an hour of public comment – all online in these COVID-19 Zoom meeting times – regarding a host of issues, primarily the Black Lives Matter rally, visiting militia, the local police department and the pandemic.
However, once all the commentary was taken, the council moved on to other items on the agenda, including the passage of the preliminary spending plan for the new fiscal year, which started July 1.
City Manager Bryan Whitemyer reported that for the fiscal year of 2020-2021, the City of Oakdale’s projected expenditures come out to $13,613,075 with revenue and transfers coming to $12,991,907. This leaves the city with $621,168 of expenditures that exceed revenue, putting the city into deficit mode.
“This is a drastic change from the previous fiscal years,” Whitemyer continued, noting that in previous years expenditures have come below the revenue received. He further explained that this deficit was caused by COVID-19 and shutting off the economy.
Traditionally, much of Oakdale’s revenue comes through tourism dollars, people travelling through the town, staying at local hotels, buying gas locally, dining out and more. Currently, hotels and motels have more vacancies because of the lack of tourist traffic as the state continues to grapple with the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the on-again, off-again closure orders for many businesses.
The budget also includes an increase in cost for the Fire Services Contract of $162,555 and $71,042 in CalPERS retirement cost increases.
“This was a cost increase we knew about,” Whitemyer assured, “even with these cost increases, we’re saving.”
In an effort to save money and prevent more expenditures exceeding revenue, the council also officially announced that the swimming pool will not be opening this summer because of COVID-19 protocols; the measures taken to help prevent the virus would significantly increase the cost of keeping the Plunge open. While some neighboring pools are able to open, officials said it’s important to remember the differences in restrictions between Stanislaus versus San Joaquin County and that pool operations are typically done by each individual municipality. The decision to keep the pool closed this summer is expected to save around $50,000.
The council also briefly reviewed Measure H, which extends Measure Y, a sales tax approved by citizens of Oakdale in 2014, and mainly helps fund public safety, streets and senior citizen services.
This is the breakdown of Measure H: 58 percent to police, 33 percent to fire, 4 percent to street lighting, 2 percent to street sweeping, 2 percent to the senior center, and 1 percent to the community center.
The final budget will be approved in September or October of 2020.
Creating a healthy reserve as part of the overall budgeting plan is paying benefits this year, as the city is expected to still end 2020-21 with a budget surplus because they can draw on the existing funds to offset the anticipated shortfall in revenues.
“The shortfalls that were created by COVID-19 and other unforeseen circumstances are exactly why having such reserves are so important,” Councilmember Ericka Chiara noted, with echoing support from other councilmembers. “I know we’re one of the only cities in the county that has this level of reserve, so thank you for keeping us on our toes and that there’s money to spend when we need it.”