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Another tough budget?
Number crunching to commence May 23

With the prospects of tough money decisions for the new fiscal year starting on July 1, members of the Ceres City Council are scheduled to go through a line-by-line examination of the proposed budget.

The excruciating exercise could take many hours starting with the Monday, May 23 meeting and followed up at 5 p.m. the next day.

The council approved the 2015-16 fiscal year with $18.4 million in revenues against expenditures of $19.8 million with a deficit of $1.4 million. The city is expected to finish the year close to the budget with some savings in expenditures. City Manager Toby Wells on Monday said that the city can reasonably expect to have a reserve of 19 percent to 20 percent for FY 2016-17. The council previously said it will not operate the city on less than 18 percent in reserves.

Wells said the city faces financial challenges with retirement and worker's comp insurance increases as well as the full impact of returning concessions to employees.

"It's making for a very difficult budget challenge this year," commented Wells.

Councilmembers, anxious about the budget, noted they want to get cracking at the numbers before the originally scheduled budget workshop of June 2. Councilmember Linda Ryno pushed for a stepped up schedule. Members decided to start the Monday, May 23 City Council meeting at 5 p.m. to allow for an introduction of the proposed budget rolling right into a line-by-line review.

Last year the council decided to return $824,593 in salary concessions to employees which they agreed to accept because of revenue shortfalls due to the economy.

A year ago the council heard Wells address a prior pledge to get the city budget to a balanced state by FY 2017-18, his third year as city manager. At that time Wells said he was projecting revenues for the 2016-17 fiscal year to be four percent higher and $500,000 in cuts in the form of layoffs or reduced services. An unknown at that time was whether the city would snag the SAFER grant to fund six firefighters for two years.