"Stockton City Council has adopted a nearly $900 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23, an end to the “status-quo” budgets of the years of bankruptcy recovery with minimal growth, Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Trammel said.
“What we’re looking at now is moving toward a more normalized city government budget,” Trammel said at the June 21 city council meeting. “We’re looking at everything from the perspective of our long-range financial plan to make sure any decisions we’re entering into are going to be affordable in the long term.”
Stockton is the 11th largest city in California. The population sprouted by about 30,000 people over 14 years while the city recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and bankruptcy. Staffing levels have still not recovered to pre-bankruptcy levels. The new city budget touts a net increase of 33 full-time positions, including six fire department positions and the reopening of Fire Station No. 1 on South Fresno Avenue, shuttered since 2011.
The city’s public works department is has a 17% vacancy rate. The new budget will create one new public works position to support new development and construction projects, a position Public Works Director Jodi Almassy said is sorely needed to help deliver more than $1 billion in capital improvement projects over the next five years, though $623 million in projects are still unfunded.
At the June 15 budget hearing, Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said the city needs to clarify its position in committing to inclusion and equity when targeting investment areas and initiatives. The city has more than $50 million in deferred maintenance, and public works policy dictates that money is spent where the city deems is in most disrepair citywide, not to any specific community for equity purposes. Lincoln specifically requested staff come back with a price on replacing all the redwood curbs still present in south Stockton.
While the level of city services is on the rise, Fugazi voiced some concern over the long-term outlook.
“When councilmember Wright and I were first on council, that’s when we exited bankruptcy in 2015 … there was $182 million or whatever in the general fund, and now we’re $100 million over that. I never thought I would see this day, which is very pleasing,” Fugazi said at the June 15 budget hearing. “We don’t have a crystal ball we can predict, but if we stay along this long-range financial plan, will we be able to maintain the level of service that we’re offering today?”
Trammel said today’s unstable economy does indeed cloud the vision of Stockton’s future. The cost of doing business in almost every sector has gone up; rent, real estate, fuel and grocery prices are soaring. Trammel said a recession is likely coming; it's just a matter of when and how severe.
“It is certainly our priority to not have to cut positions ever again — we’ve been there, we’ve done that,” Trammel said at the June 15 hearing. “One of the things our long-range financial plan has always done a good job of saying is, ‘This is what we think salary and benefits are going to cost in the long run, we want to make sure those are affordable to the city.’ That’s the biggest piece of the budget. The inflation that I mentioned, general expenses is a much smaller piece of the budget.”
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