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Ripon not flustered by getting nothing from state
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RIPON – What could have spelled disaster appears to be only a false alarm in the eyes of Ripon’s financial guru.

When it was announced last month that 15 cities in California would not be receiving their tax checks from the agency charged with tax administration and fee collection – including Petaluma, Maricopa, Ripon, and Gustine – budget planners like Ripon City Administrator Leon Compton always knew that it was a possibity.

After all, the governor did invoke his right under a 2004 law that allowed him to borrow up to 8 percent of property tax revenue from municipalities as long as they’re repaid within three years. It allowed Sacramento to get the ball rolling on digging themselves out of one of the biggest budget disasters in history.

But according to Compton, Ripon’s name on the listing was more of a misunderstanding than anything else. He noted Ripon actually received more than they had actually received more money than usual the month before and the lack of a check was simply a way of balancing out the discrepancy.

“To the best of my knowledge – unless something has changed that I’m now aware of – we’re still getting out tax checks,” Compton said.

Compton has gained praise by some members of the City Council for his bi-monthly presentation about the status of the city’s finances – often in a “pull no punches” manner that shows exactly how much they’re standing to lose, and how the situation is looking like it’ll shape up in the coming years.

And his foresight appears to have paid off.

When laying out the last budget Compton estimated that Ripon would find themselves somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000 in the red after everything was paid out and accounted for – instead reaching a number that was just under $400,000 when the end of the year reports finally filtered in.

Even that number was slightly misleading, and gave Ripon’s elected officials – some of whom had heard estimates of more than a million dollars in shortages – some room to breathe as they try and find a way to balance Ripon’s way of life with the budget reality that every community is now facing.

A large portion of Ripon’s sales-tax revenue comes from the Jack Tone Interchange project that was constructed to attract highway traffic and boost the tax base for the city. It is something that has taken somewhat of a hit over the course of the last 18 months because of the tumultuous economy and the lower gas prices.

Other cities that didn’t receive checks, according to the Board of Equalization, didn’t meet second quarter projections and therefore weren’t eligible for the funding.