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Brighter outlook as Lathrop finds itself $656K ahead

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POSTED September 15, 2012 2:04 a.m.

LATHROP – The City of Lathrop’s fiscal situation has turned out be better than initially expected.

Just two months after the city had to lay-off a full-time staffer from the IT department and a part-time legal secretary – as well as unfund a detective position in the Lathrop Police Services budget – the dust has finally started to settle and now shows that the city will actually end up in the black.

With the cuts made back in July – which saved roughly $414,000 in staff costs – Acting Finance Director Cari James told the Lathrop City Council last week that the city will actually end up with an extra $656,000.

And for the first time four years the council is going to be able to start to replenish the accounts that they’ve had to raid to cover annual budget shortfalls in order avoid laying off additional staff.

At staff’s recommendation the council agreed to put $233,600 into the equipment replacement reserve – which has been a popular well to tap into – and send $150,000 to the Post Retirement Health Benefit account.

But the surplus could also mean new business and development for the community in the immediate future. The council agreed to send $116,400 to the Economic Development Fund which will be used to fund the progression of projects that will reimbursed by developers at a later date.

A total of $50,000 was set-aside for the police contract true-up for the current fiscal year – something that was initially expected to join a variety of other expenses that would send the city into the red over the course of the next five years.

The most telling part of James’ presentation, however, is the fact that staff now expects that Lathrop’s general fund reserves will total $6.1 million in 2017. That’s the same amount currently in the bank, and reflects the dedication of the council to reverse a downward trend that just five years ago cast a grim outlook for Lathrop’s financial future.

If local voters approve a one-cent sales tax increase in November, the city could end up getting an additional $2 million in additional revenue – pulling 60 percent of that into their coffers to help pay for everything from staff costs to additional police officers. The remaining 40 percent is expected to go to the fire department as part of a handshake agreement to boost the number of firefighters and emergency responders in the community.

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