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City of St. Helena

The city of St. Helena’s 2019-2020 General Fund revenues and expenses are expected to top $15 million for the first time in the city’s history.

General Fund revenues and expenses are both projected at $15,006,090, with a 41 percent reserve, according to the draft budget presented to the City Council on Thursday.

City staff will make a few adjustments at the council’s direction and bring the budget back for adoption at the June 11 council meeting.

The budget contains conservative revenue estimates, projecting a 2 percent increase in sales taxes, a 3.5 percent increase in property taxes, and no increase in hotel taxes. Those three sources account for 89 percent of General Fund revenues.

The sales tax estimate factors in the loss of A&J Vineyard Supply, a major sales tax contributor that has moved out of the city limits, and potential PG&E power shutdowns to reduce the risk of fires.

“We are anticipating that PG&E may shut down power periodically throughout the year, and that may have an impact on our hotel tax and our sales tax,” said City Manager Mark Prestwich. “And we’re concerned about that.”

The property tax estimate is also conservative, and annual increases have historically been higher. Finance Director April Mitts expects to know the actual property tax revenues by August. If they come in higher than expected, the council might have a chance to fund some of the items on its wish list.

The council directed staff to fund three of those items already: additional money for code enforcement, a $29,400 grant to the nonprofit Mentis to provide additional school counseling, and between one and three solar-powered programmable message boards that could be especially useful during wildfires and other emergencies.

On the expense side, the city is facing increased costs for medical benefits, workers compensation and salaries.

To reduce liabilities over the long term, the city reduced the vacation cap amount, eliminated sick leave payout, and eliminated sick leave conversion for all mid-managers and executive staff hired after May 8, 2018. The city is also setting aside $152,000 to fund current medical liabilities, after contributing $152,000 in the current fiscal year.

Other new expenses include:

- $380,000 for building maintenance (including a new roof for the library)

- $163,403 for an assistant to the city manager ($106,490 from General Fund)

- $200,000 for a comprehensive zoning code update, with another $120,000 from a grant, and maybe more in the next fiscal year

- $379,189 annual matching contribution to Measure T road projects, with another approximately $1.2 million in revenue coming from the new half-cent sales tax.

- $100,000 set aside to be used only in case of economic uncertainty.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.