City of Calistoga adjusts budget for wildfires, pandemic

17 February 2021

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USA – Although the city’s reserves are above previous estimates, the pandemic and recent wildfires have placed demands on general funds.

In a budget adjustment meeting on Tuesday, the Calistoga City Council discussed mid-year adjustments, predicting an ending balance of approximately $5.4 million for June 2021, down $2 million from 2020, but up from last year’s estimates.

The decrease is mainly from a loss of $1.5 million in TOT (hotel tax) due to the pandemic, said Gloria Leon, the city’s administrative director at the City Council meeting Feb. 16.

Still, the City’s General Fund reserves are almost double than what was predicted last year, at 48%.

Although General Fund reserves are above previous estimates, over the last six months, there have been several unanticipated demands on the budget.

One of the largest expenditures was for police and fire wages during the Glass and LNU Complex fires, and cost of living increases for city employees. That includes $400,000 for strike unit overtime and $70,000 for police overtime during the fires.

Staff is also recommending $450,000 in operating adjustments due to COVID-19 shelter-at-home orders as more residents are at home using more water. While water and wastewater revenues from businesses has declined, as of November, overdue payments totaled $229,000. The city is continuing to waive the 5% penalty for late payments, and shutoffs have been suspended.

Although many city staff positions remain unfilled due to cutbacks, the council approved a $50,000 request from the Parks and Recreation Department to open the pool early this year, in March, and offer aquatics.

“There’s a definite need in the community and people are voicing it,” said the department’s director, Rachel Melick.

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