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E.C. Council Allocates Block Grant Funds
El Centro City Council Stock Photo

El Centro Reviews Grant Priorities, Mid-Year Budget

EL CENTRO — The El Centro City Council on Feb. 18 gave initial approval to what a majority of its members said they see as the most relevant programs for the 2020-21 fiscal year Community Development Block Grant programs.

The vote was 3-1 vote with Council Member Tomas Oliva opposing and Council Member Cheryl Viegas-Walker absent.

The objective of the CDBG program is the development of urban communities by providing decent housing through expanding economic opportunities. It is mainly for persons of low- and moderate-income under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Assistance generally aids in the prevention or elimination of slums, or meets an urgent need such as natural disaster, explained Stacy Mendoza, staff presenter with the city Communities Services Department. Eligible applicants are cities with populations under 50,000 and counties with populations under 200,000 in their unincorporated areas.

Housing intervention covers single- and multi-family rehabilitation, rental housing or homeownership assistance. Public improvements can include water and wastewater systems, and rural utilities such as gas and electric services. In addition, daycare centers, domestic violence shelters, food banks, community centers, medical facilities, and fire stations may also receive resources.

Highest Priorities Recommended

A total of 13 proposals were received. These include Catholic Charities (2), WomanHaven, LGBT Resource Center, Police Activities League, Fair Housing, Community Development Department, Community Services Department (3), Swarthout Park Ramada Improvements, CDBG Off-Site Improvement Project and Community Services Department.

There was a total of $566,777 available, Mendoza said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jason Jackson made the successful motion to tentatively send funds to the El Centro Police Activities League and the two programs of Catholic Charities; the House of Hope Shelter for women and children, and the Senior Nutrition program.

“The PAL program is an incredible program,” said Jackson. “It keeps kids off the streets and away from gang activity. I’m also unwilling to reduce the program for Senior Nutrition.”

A break down on how much it is recommended each recipient get was not immediately available.

The vote tentatively denied funding to the other programs.

Mayor Efrain Silva noted he was also reluctant to reduce any funds for Catholic Charities, stating, “We might provide some seed money for the LGBT mentor program but it would be no more than $3,000.”

Dissent Vote Explained

Oliva, explaining his “no” vote the next day in a phone interview, stressed in no way did he oppose supporting PAL or Catholic Charities.

“But we are in a sense turning our backs on the LGBT community, domestic violence programs and other worthy assistance. This vote supports the seniors and homeless. But I feel we could have offered resources to LGBT youth and helped many others deserving of aid,” he said.

After this draft resolution, a 30-day comment period follows and if the council agrees to any changes they will be made by May 13.

Mid-year Budget Review

In other business, council was given a mid-year budget review by Richard Romero, Finance Department director.

Romero explained as of Dec. 31, 50 percent of the fiscal year 2019-20 elapsed. As of that date, revenue was $9.8 million, which is 33 percent of projected revenue. But the percentage of revenues received in the same time period in past fiscal years was comparable. In fiscal 2018-19 it was 32 percent and in fiscal 2017-18 36 percent.

City fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30.

“Overall, it is projected revenues will continue on track and the city will be able to meet the amount budgeted for this fiscal year,” said Romero.

As of Dec. 31, expenditures totaled $13.3 million, or 43 percent of the total revised budget expenditures.

“This is a conservative (analysis) and within an acceptable range expected at this time of the year,” said Romero. “Some divisions have expenditures above the 50 percent mark because they have payments due at the beginning of the fiscal year (such as information technology and Imperial Valley Management Agency).”

Revenue projection showed an increase mostly from greater sales and property taxes. But revenue projections alone will not be adequate to cover CalPERS pension cost and operation costs of the new Aquatic Center.

“In summary, to cover the anticipated shortfalls, the city will need $1.7 million FY 21, $2.5 million FY 22, $3.2 million FY 23, $3.5 million FY 24,” said Romero.

He explained options used by other cities in a similar situations include employee contribution for employer pension cost, and increases in sales tax to maintain police and fire staffing levels.

“Overall, the financial results for the first six months of the fiscal year look adequate and deemed to be on track,” said Romero.

This story is featured in the Feb 20, 2020 e-Edition.

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