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SELMA –Selma Finance Director Isaac Moreno reported that there will be enough funds in the City’s $13.8 million budget next year to hire at least one more police officer, give the current fire and police staffs raises and with the anticipated increase in sales tax, have enough to keep 20 percent in reserves.

The information was presented at an April 6 budget workshop where Selma's City Council had a chance to look at the City’s financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The City’s final budget will be presented before July, Interim City Manager Henry Perea said.

Public safety has been a high priority for the Council and the upcoming city budget reflects that. Recently, the city entered agreements with its fire and police departments for salary increases spread over the next three years.

Officers’ salaries will be increased incrementally over the next three years by 5 percent, then 4 percent each of the following two years, Perea said. A similar agreement was reached with the fire department for salary increases over the next three years of 4 percent, 3.5 percent and 3 percent.

Perea said the salary agreements put the City “on a good path” in regard to recruitment and retention. Police will also be using more technology to increase policing efforts.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Robertson said he’d like to see a baseline of data to measure if the salary increases are helping in the long run.

Moreno said the 2016-2017 budget ended with a gain of almost $800,000. He credits department heads for staying well within budget and getting work done even with smaller staffs.

“They’ve been able to buckle down and get things done with the skeleton crews they have and stayed within their budgets. It does take a team to get things done so I commend them for doing that,” Moreno said.

This upcoming year, Moreno said, should repeat that positive balance trend.

Moreno projects that sales tax money will grow, thanks in part to a growing state economy and increases in property tax reassessments as homes are sold and reassessed.

“We’re looking at $400,000 to $500,000 growth just within your sales tax. In addition to that, as homes turn, the property gets reassessed and the values go up. So the current market has been strong in housing. With that amount, we should be able to fill our reserve to a maximum 20 percent.”

A future expense will be increases in providing health benefit and retirement insurance through the CalPERS system for state employees. To prepare for that, Perea said a trust fund will be set up.

“We’re presenting the formation of a trust fund in your budget dedicated to deal with the increased CalPERS cost going forward. The key is to fund that trust so it doesn’t hit your ongoing general fund operations,” he said. “Next year, when you roll into your budget, you’ll be able to say you’ve already made a decision to allocate that money into a fund to deal with that liability on an ongoing basis. If we don’t, every year you’ll have to find $200,000. I think this is a soft landing. It’ll be a reserve.”

Perea said succession planning also needs to take place as senior department heads retire.

“It’s time to start building and taking a look at what we do with our management structure. If we don’t have a Plan B when folks are leaving, we have a problem.”

Fire Chief Mike Kain is retiring in the next 60 days, thus a division chief position was added to the department to serve as second in command.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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