SAN BENITO — City officials are starting the year with a new $13.4 million general fund budget that comes with more money for street maintenance.
Meanwhile, they’re holding the city’s property tax rate at 72 cents per $100 valuation.
The new budget, bigger than last year’s $12.8 million general fund budget, comes with a $4.2 million cash reserve fund capable of operating the city for 120 days in case of an emergency, Finance Director Belen Peña said.
Across town, residents want more money to fix up the city’s pot-hole pocked streets.
This year, officials are setting aside $1.78 million to fund its street maintenance account, which pays the street crew’s salaries and benefits while buying the materials they use on the job.
In the past three years, officials have boosted that budget by more than $300,000.
Meanwhile, officials continue to earmark about $450,000 a year to fund street repairs.
Like other officials here, City Commissioner Rick Guerra wants more money to fix the city’s battered streets.
“I wish we could put a lot more money on streets, parks and infrastructure,” Guerra said. “But that’s a wish list.”
The city’s low tax base limits revenue.
“That’s the money we have,” Guerra said, pointing to the tight budget. “We have to work with what we have to make ends meet and still serve the people the best we can.”
At City Hall, officials expect to collect $5.24 million in property taxes this year — the budget’s biggest source of revenue.
Meanwhile, the city’s sales tax collection is projected at $4.71 million, down from $4.72 million last year.
This year, four new employees are on the payroll, including a new city planner.
As part of the new budget, officials are setting aside $40,000 to fund the city planner’s salary, $37,000 to pay the salaries of two parks employees and $9,000 earmarked for a part-time library clerk, Peña said.
The budget is also giving employees 3 percent across-the-board raises.
Still, many salaries remain too low, Guerra said.
“We’re losing a lot of experience to other cities that can pay a lot more,” he said.
Under the city’s new budget, officials don’t plan any capital expenditures, Peña said.
But Guerra said some departments need new equipment.
“There are departments that need more equipment,” he said. “They’re fixing some of the aging equipment we have. Some has to be replaced.”
Like previous years, public safety is taking the budget’s biggest chunk of revenue.
This year, officials earmarked $3.74 million to fund the police department, while they set aside $2.29 million for the fire department.