After years of budget cuts, the City of Bakersfield has plans to add three more police officers and one solid waste employee, according to the proposed city budget revealed Wednesday night.
City Manager Alan Tandy calls the budget for fiscal year 2017-18 "continuity," meaning the proposed budget is continuing services the city has been providing for the last year.
Some of the "few good things," he said, are the addition of a solid waste employee and three police officers to patrol downtown and southeast Bakersfield. The federal budget, however, could keep the city from hiring those police officers as the president has proposed eliminating the program the city would use to pay for them.
But the solid waste employee position would be paid for by trash fees. This additional employee is needed to service the 1,472 homes that have been built since the city had last added a solid waste employee a couple of years ago.
The Solid Waste Division has been using Green Waste Facility staff to service the additional homes, and that was creating overtime.
This solid waste employee and the police officers would increase total citywide staffing levels to 1,525 employees, still below fiscal year 2008-09 levels at 1,613.
Meanwhile, the city's two largest revenue sources are property and sales tax. The proposed budget predicts property tax revenues will increase by 5 percent. In contrast to sales tax revenues, which have been very volatile, property tax revenue has steadily increased over the past couple of years.
In fact, sales tax revenues were at negative 10 percent of predicted amounts the quarters before the holiday season. Despite the recent increase, though, the city is still being cautious.
"Although the recent indicators seem to suggest there may be some stability in the local economy," Tandy wrote in his budget message, "we remain cautious, as it remains to be seen if this is the start of a trend or if this current uptick is temporary."
The fiscal year 2017-18 proposed budget reports "small, incremental signs" the oil industry is "stabilizing." Local oil production and exploration drives equipment sales, which increases city sales tax revenue, the city manager wrote.
Meanwhile, the city will be facing all around cost increases in the California Public Employees' Retirement System, CalPERS. After consecutive years of poor investment returns, CalPERs Board lowered its expectations of profits in 2016, forcing members, including cities, to make up the difference. This financial burden affects cities across the state.
The City of Bakersfield expects its CalPERS costs will increase by $2.4 million this coming fiscal year. In fiscal year 2018-19, it estimates an additional increase of $6.5 million.
"Until CalPERS can align its investment projections with reality," Tandy wrote, "there will be concerns that these costs will continue to rise."
The proposed budget showed new revenue coming from the state's transportation tax bill, SB 1, which would give the city an average of $8 million over a 10-year period. But that funding will not be available until later this year, in November, so the city will have to do a mid-year budget update sometime in January 2018.
Other circumstances that could affect the city's proposed budget mid-year are increased water purification standards and the loss of some Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, funds.
Two HUD programs, the Community Development Block Grant and HOME, could be eliminated in President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget. This could result in the city losing $4.3 million annually to improve neighborhoods for low- and moderate-income Bakersfield residents.
The Community Development Block Grant is most often used for street improvements like curbs and sidewalks. And in the case of this coming fiscal year, block grant funds would be used to pay for those three additional police officers.
"A reduction or elimination of these programs will have a substantial impact on the city's budget," Tandy said in his budget message.
The City Council approved the plan to allocate HUD funds at Wednesday's meeting. The current budget in Congress keeps HUD programs, but city staff said they will be closely monitoring the federal budget process.
The meeting on Wednesday was the first of several steps to pass the city budget by July.
There will be two budget workshops held at noon on May 15 and June 5. These workshops are where city departments, like the city attorney, police, fire, and public works, present their budgets for the up-coming fiscal year.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on Wednesday, June 7, and the City Council will adopt the budget three weeks later on June 28.
The city's budget is available online at bakersfieldcity.us on the City Manager's page.