CALEXICO — Calexico’s proposed 2020-2021 operating budget was to get its first public vetting May 7 when it went before the City Council in open session, well ahead of the July 1 start of the new financial year.
The revenue-expense-neutral total budget is proposed for $107.84 million, which includes a $16.44 million general fund that anticipates a slight dip in revenues for 2020-2021, based on sales-tax projections.
But the raw numbers aren’t really the story. It’s a balanced budget at present that everyone gets a chance to “chime in on,” Calexico City Manager David Dale said during a brief interview May 5.
Those round numbers presented in more granular detail will undoubtedly change between now and July 1 as department heads and council members have their say on additional needs, cost-saving cuts or finding new sources of revenue.
Last year’s budget, fiscal 2019-2020, which ends June 30, “barely got done last year” ahead of the July 1, 2020 start date, Dale said, and the lack of input by the public was a much-deserved criticism of the city.
“We want to be as transparent as possible in this process to rectify last year, where we pushed the thing through due to time constraints,” Dale said.
Even though the city is currently running a budget that will finish the year nearly $700,000 in the black despite sales-tax losses and program-fee losses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is still looking to come out on the plus side after a negative-$4 million general-fund balance in 2016 that saw austerity measures put in place that linger to this day.
It’s been a financial reawakening this year for the city despite the coronavirus concerns, as Dale and others have said tough times equipped the city to handle the pandemic better than most municipalities.
After May 7, individual department heads in the city will each have their chance to request budget augmentations, and members of the City Council will make their requests before the revised document heads to the city’s Economic Development/Finance Commission, Dale said.
Following that, there will be at least two public hearings on the budget before the council considers its passage, he added.
“We’re going to give plenty of time for people to comment,” Dale said.
Joel Reisen Park Lighting on Agenda
In other city business, the council was to consider paying $100,000 to Tom Watson Inc. of El Centro to install seven 50-foot sports lighting poles and bases at Joel Reisen Park, a repurposed 3.5-acre retention basin for the Victoria Villas subdivision between Highway 98 and Cole Boulevard.
In late 2019, after the city had received the seven poles on top of which grant-funded lighting would be installed for the dark baseball/softball fields, it was discovered the water table was too high in the basin and that additional engineering would be required to properly set the pole bases in place.
After the city was able to secure an additional $10,000 grant from the Imperial Irrigation District in January, which was on top of a previous $150,000 IID grant and free prep work the district did to get ready for the poles, the city did not have the added funding needed to pay for the base installation.
However, the city is allocating the cost of the installation from previously budgeted capital-improvement project funds.
The city received four quotes for the work, including two $100,000 quotes — one from Tom Watson Inc. and one from RADCO Inc. of Brawley, according to a report prepared by Dale. A&R Construction of Brawley came in at $120,000 and ROVE Engineering of El Centro came in with a quote of $343,000.
“The proposal from Tom Watson Inc. includes the standing of the light poles. Therefore, staff is recommending City Council approve the proposal from Tom Watson Inc. (over RADCO). The installation and connection of the electrical infrastructure will be installed by others,” Dale’s report to council states.
The lights are to be installed and wired by electricians with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 San Diego and Imperial counties, who IID officials persuaded to donate some of its local union electricians time and skills.
Joel Reisen Park is named after the father of Calexico council member Morris Reisen. Joel Reisen was a Calexico pioneer and owner of the Tienda Del Army Surplus Store in the downtown, who “gave a lot to the community,” Morris has said in a previous story.
Although no further information was shared as part of the May 6 agenda, Calexico Fire Chief Diego Favila and Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo were both scheduled to give a presentation to the council on COVID-19 updates.
Watch the Calexico Council Meeting Online Live-streamed May 6, the recorded Calexico City Council meeting will be available to watch online on the city’s website on May 7 on calexico.thepublicspectrum.org/