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Wasco council OKs balanced 2024-25 budget

The Wasco City Council has approved the 2024-25 fiscal year annual operating budget, balancing general fund revenues and operating costs at $15.4 million and $15.2 million, respectively.

This year's budget reflects a significant decrease from the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Last year's budget projected revenues of $18.9 million and general operating costs of $18.0 million. This reduction of approximately $4 million in revenue is primarily due to the one-time American Rescue Plan Act grant funding to support the Police Department's start-up while also paying the Kern County Sheriff's contract. As the Wasco Police Department became operational on April 18, these contract costs are now being phased out.

The 2024-25 budget reflects a strong commitment to public safety and infrastructure improvements. The city has allocated funds for the newly operational Wasco Police Department, ensuring higher staffing levels and local control. Significant investments in infrastructure will be implemented through an ambitious $44.9 million Capital Improvement Program, targeting essential upgrades and repairs.

Wasco starts the new fiscal year with several financial strengths, according to city's Finance Department:

Balanced budget. The city begins with a balanced budget, avoiding the need to address past deficits.

Clean audits. Consistently receiving unqualified audit opinions.

Awards for financial management. Recognized for excellence in budgeting and financial reporting.

No unfunded retiree healthcare obligations. A significant factor in the city's fiscal health.

No general fund debt obligations. Starting the fiscal year without general fund debt service obligations.

Strong general fund reserves. Projected to end the fiscal year with reserves at 92% of operating expenditures, well above the city's minimum policy target of 35%.

The city is actively pursuing a $44 million State Revolving Fund grant to replace outdated water wells and install two 1.5 million-gallon storage tanks. This infrastructure is to meet the State Water Board's new standards and ensure an alternative water source during emergencies. The city's economic growth depends on these developments, as current water capacity limitations are issuing conditional "will serve" letters to developers. Without addressing these issues, Wasco's economic development could be significantly hampered.

Councilmember Vincent Martinez commented, "I am excited about this year's budget. Even with all the projects the City of Wasco has going on, including the launch of our Police Department, we have a balanced budget and continue to save for the future.

"We have more law enforcement on the streets, we are making progress with the downtown revitalization, we will open a new park soon, the labor camp issue has been resolved, our city is able to accomplish all this in our budget."

Finance Director Isarel Perez-Hernandez sees a bright future for the city., "The approved budget demonstrates a comprehensive approach to maintaining fiscal health, enhancing public safety and supporting infrastructure and economic development, ensuring Wasco remains well-positioned for future growth and stability."

 

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