The plan to spend tax revenues from Measure H for public safety in Ceres is being revised by city leaders because monies continue to come up short.
The sales tax measure, approved by Ceres voters in November 2007, added a half-cent to the tax rate on each dollar of sale in Ceres. Revenues have not been as high as city officials had hoped due to the economic downturn and a decrease of sales.
"We're about $5 million short of where we expected to be at this point in time and that's really a reflection of the economy," said City Manager Toby Wells.
A citizen-based Measure H Oversight Committee will be reviewing the revenues and recommending how they should be spent. On Monday the City Council gave perimeters to guide the process of deciding how to adjust the spending plan.
The city believed it would collect $31 million over the first 10 years to hire a total of 13 police officers and 11 firefighters. Disappointments settled in right away when the expected $2.7 million for the first year ended up being $2.1 million. The city expected revenues to climb by three percent annually but the second year's receipts dropped to $1.7 million. Since then revenues have been up and down.
"The economy did not help with that plan," said Wells.
When it made its first projections, the city expected to hire 12 new hires during the 2014-15 fiscal year. The expenditure plan has already been amended three times with the city expecting to hire three new firefighters during this budget year and a new police officer during the 2016-17 year; and three more firefighters and an officer during 2017-18.
Wells said there is a problem in not having enough money.
"The challenge with that plan as we stand today, as the budget was approved for '15-'16, the Measure H fund balance was just a little bit under $500,000 and with the expenditures plans for fiscal year ‘15-'16, we'll spend all of that balance," said Wells.
Wells felt coming up with a 10-year spending plan is too long and recommended a shorter time, like three to five years. The council also leaned toward the belief that Measure H tax revenues will increase by one percent annually instead of the projected three percent annually.
The council also said they would like to get back to the original intent of spending 51 percent on police and 49 percent on fire. Currently the plan became lopsided at 57 percent to police and 43 percent to fire. Wells said the city probably couldn't get back to parity in a short time.
"I don't think that needs to happen overnight," suggested Mayor Chris Vierra.
He said the expenditure plan has to match revenues.
"I see it as a right-sizing and a re-evaluation of the expenditure plan to come in line with the revenue plan," said Vierra. "We can't go in the situation where our expenditures continue to go up and the revenue isn't supporting it. That's a problem."
The revised expenditure plan will be in place by December.
Wells said the tweaking will not affect the current budget but would be reflected when the 2016-17 fiscal budget is formed.