In preparing next year’s budget, city leaders say what could have been a rainy day, actually turned out to be a sprinkle.

About to bear the brunt of a $2 million loss in general fund revenue, leaders are still lauding a draft of the city’s proposed $77 million budget for FY 2010 to 2011.

The proposed budget, that will include no increase in the property tax rate for the sixteenth straight year, despite a potential shortfall of $899,931 next year in property tax revenue.

The city projects a decrease in sales tax revenue ($752, 281), vital statistic fees ($161,000), and passport fees ($141,000), when combined with projected losses in property tax amount to a total shortfall of $2 million in general fund revenue.

Council member Gene Espinoza called the proposed budget “the skinniest he’s ever seen” at the most recent Council meeting on Aug. 17. A public hearing is scheduled for September 21, 2010 after which the mayor and council will vote on the item. By law, a balanced budget must be approved on or before Oct. 1.

“I have been here nine years, and economic times call for tough measures. I think we are going with the philosophy of doing more with less, and our taxpayers want that,” Espinoza said. “They (taxpayers) definitely don’t want to get hit with higher taxes, and we were able to put together a budget that was balanced, without raising taxes.”

The proposed budget includes:

A three percent cost of living increase for employees; increased funding for the Police Department to purchase a phone and network system upgrade and a disaster recovery system; increased funding for the Fire Department to purchase bunker gear and fire truck response warning signs;

As well as increased funding for improvements to the Chapin/Sugar Road Holding Pond and improvements to the Jackson Road Drainage Crossing; increased funding for the Solid Waste Management Department for the construction of an automatic truck wash facility; solar lighting; and office equipment;

There will be no increase in residential trash collection fees or water rates, according to the City.

“Look, compared to what you hear from the other municipalities, I’m ecstatic that we were able to balance a budget, still able to provide a cost of living raise, and still be able to pay for the insurance,” Espinoza said. “Those were items that I thought we had to make sure we kept in because it’s important to our employees. I don’t think our employees need to be hampered anymore. Economic conditions are doing that already. We were able to keep these things in the budget, and I think it says a lot about our staff. They are able to live within their means so everybody benefits.”