Woodlake revenues continue to climb

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@TheSunGazette
woodlake – Since 2012, the City of Woodlake’s revenues have outpaced its expenditures and the trend should continue in the coming fiscal year. It was a proud statement made at the April 11 Woodlake City Council meeting by City Administrator Ramon Lara, whose hire coincides with the city’s financial growth.
Lara told the council that nearly every fund on the City’s $18 million balanced budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 should break even or end up in the black. The general fund, representing unrestricted money, has $2.1 million budgeted. In addition to annual operations, Lara said the City will use the money to begin upgrading its police fleet, hire a police sergeant and officer, hire a public works employee, continue to improve its parks and hire an architect for the design of the new community center.
Lara said the additions to the budget are being fueled by increases in the City’s tax revenue. Sales and use tax on goods and services purchased in the city are projected to increase by 4% thanks to the additions of Family Dollar, Dollar General and Rite Aid. Recent construction, new business and new subdivisions on the way are projected to increase building permit fees by 25%. Capital Facilities Fund will increase by $63,000 and will help purchase new playground equipment at the new park that will be built as part of the city’s newest subdivision Valencia Heights.
The healthiest funds are sewer and water. The Sewer Fund will increase by $341,000, which is why the Council was able to reduce sewer rates earlier this year for the first time in more than a decade. The Water Fund will increase by $624,000 to pay for an additional employee, to complete the installation of smart meters and the purchase of a data acquisition system that will allow meters to transmit meter readings to a tablet or laptop and drilling a seventh city well. Once the new water reading system is in place, the City will spend less staff time on reading meters and can charge people for the amount of water they use of the base amount each month.
“With the meters, we think water use will go down even more,” Lara said.
One of the revenue sources that will be in decline for a few years is Woodlake’s Measure R funding. The City has used nearly all of its road money funded by the countywide half cent sales tax increase. Lara said Measure has helped the City complete many projects including the downtown sidewalk improvements, round-about, transit center and plaza project. Lara said the city’s annual allotment of $112,000 is not enough to complete a project, so it borrows future funding at once to complete projects and then waits for the fund to replenish.
“We have been pretty aggressive in using it so we won’t see any more Measure R projects in the next five years,” Lara said. “Without Measure R, we could not have done any of those projects.”
The only fund not operating with a fund balance is the Airport Fund. Since purchasing the airport in 2005, the City has spent more to operate the airport that the facility generates in revenue. In order to increase revenues, airport fees have been increased to be competitive with surrounding airports. The City has also applied for funding through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would pay to make improvements to the airport, such as repaving the runway, adding fencing around the property and more lights. Lara said the City has already cut the Airport Fund deficit to $47,000 and should reduce that to just over $6,000 by the end 2016-17.
“That deficit should be gone within the next few years,” Lara said.
Lara said he will present the final Fiscal Year 2016/2017 budget for adoption at the May 9 Woodlake City Council meeting.