The Beaumont City Council is getting a head start on its budget for 2020/21 with a series of workshops over the next few months.
The council held its first workshop on Nov. 21 under the guidance of new finance director Jeffrey Mohlenkamp.
Beaumont city manager Todd Parton said that the past two years has given the council a solid financial foundation from which to work, and that for this workshop, they completed a survey for Mohlenkamp.
“We’ve been working hard toward building budgets that are building us toward sustainability,” Parton said.
Mohlenkamp, who has been with the city for two months now, said the survey was anonymous and detailed 70 services and functions of the city.
Services include the city meeting with the public, such as police or the parks and recreation department.
Functions include human resource department or accounting.
Mohlenkamp said that some of areas listed received higher ratings than others and needed to be discussed.
High concerns included police services, waste water, and fire protection, said Mohlenkamp.
There is $14 million in the general fund; $7 million in the waste water fund, from maintenance and operations and Community Facilities District bonds that have accumulated $3 to $5 million each year, over the past three to five years.
Mohlenkamp complimented Beaumont for its hard work on its budget these past few years.
“I find it very impressive with what the team has been able to accomplish,” Mohlenkamp said.
He credits Parton with bringing the city’s finances back to a stable position and to the council for its direction.
Parton said that they have to be careful about some of the numbers in the budget because last year, the council approved a new paramedic squad, but CalFire did not fill those slots so there is $800,000 left unspent in this past budget.
Mohlenkamp said it is never too early to start working on the budget. “If we don’t prepare now, it will be harder when it gets worse,” he said.
Mohlenkamp cautioned that there will be challenges ahead, especially when operating expenses will outpace growth in revenues.
The roads and city facilities need attention as does information technology because the city’s data has to be protected. Some cities have had their computers hacked, Mohlenkamp said.
The financial situation will probably take a downturn in the next two to three yearsl
Mohlenkamp said that a city with $14 million in its general fund should have 20 to 25 percent in reserve. And it is recommended that the reserves not go below $4.75 million.
The council may want to look at services that the city currently does not have, but may want to add.
The council members had an opportunity to ask questions. Mike Lara wanted to know when Mohlenkamp thought the years will cross when revenues and expenses meet up.
Mohlenkamp said it is a long-range financial forecast, but that it is based more on projections.
Parton said he believes it will be after the 2020/21 fiscal year.
Lara also questioned the difference between expanded revenue and new revenue. Mohlenkamp said that sales tax would be considered expanded revenue while new revenue would be a new fee or tax.
The next budget workshops will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday Dec. 17 at city hall. The council will look at evaluating city services, allocating funds to certain areas and exploring ways to increase capital.
Staff writer Julie Farren may be reached at email@example.com.