Reedley outlines budget for 10-year vision


Workshop outlined a proposed budget for the city’s plans over ten years, focusing on infrastructure and fiscal sustainability

Photo by Kenny Goodman
Water towers are expensive to maintain as the city considers budget alternatives such as water basins.

REEDLEY – On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Paul Melikian delivered his presentation on capital planning. The workshop serves to bring the newest council members up to speed on Reedley’s annual costs and growth investments. These recurring costs and a plan to save for the future are necessary to effectively serve the community as it grows in changing times.
Major themes addressed included the aging infrastructure, focusing on community partnerships, communication with the public and pursuing grants aligned with the strategic goals outlined.
The assistant city manager emphasized the importance of fiscal responsibility while outlining the needs and goals envisioned by preceding council members. “We are always looking at guarding our fiscal health… without it we lose our ability to serve the public,” Melikian said, “The roots of fiscal adversity take hold in the good times by making commitments that are not sustainable.”
With a capital budget of just over $18.2 million this year, water and sewer system rehabilitation and road maintenance will receive about $5 million each. The remainder will be distributed to parks and recreation, facility rehabilitation and other community projects and costs.
In previous years council members have spent extra revenue on one time investments. By avoiding added recurring costs the city has avoided budget shortfalls. “We’ve had a council that has really stayed the course, even when there’s been millions of dollars in their face to have to allocate. So I appreciate that,” Mayor Anita Betancourt said.
“In certain areas our expenditures are required by law,” the mayor said, “There are requirements. We get tax dollars but we can’t decrease our efforts or we lose those.”
Mayor Betancourt also emphasized growing and maintaining the general fund reserves to deal with unanticipated costs that arise. Current policy dictates a reserve covering 90 days of operational costs. Regular allocation of funds for land acquisition and future facilities were also planned.
The need to address infrastructure was heavily discussed. Nearly a century old, many facilities are quickly approaching their capacity limits to serve the growing city. The population is expected to be upward of 32,000 people by 2035, assuming a growth rate of less than 2% a year. That’s an additional 7,000 residents more from the 2021 census of 25,221
Part of the infrastructure discussion included dealing with stormwater runoff. With water basins at capacity from recent weather, a master basin for water reserves is needed. This eliminates the steep costs to maintain local water towers which function primarily as release valves now. “Chances are a city like us wouldn’t connect every storm water drain (to a central basin) but we might have multiple mini-master basins,” suggested the mayor, “something like that is very much a policy decision.”
The central valley transportation center compound was also an area of focus. The current corporation yard is expected to reach its operating capacity within the next five years. The community center’s need for an adequate backup generator was also mentioned as a continuing focus, as was improved parkway maintenance, a pilot solar street light project, and maintenance of the local opera house.
Possible changes to the community sports complex were discussed. The mayor addressed changing community interests and needs, along with the exploration of expanding the role of the Parks and Recreation Foundation in fundraising.
The addition of a second community center facility and additional EV charging stations for future county vehicles were mentioned as future projects. As California moves toward eliminating the sale of new gasoline powered vehicles, the city will work on increasing the number of electric vehicles in use. A second city electrician to support this will be needed. Expanding the police headquarters and a new city hall building were also cited as long term goals for the city.
Next steps are to continue working on the budget through internal meetings with department heads and incorporating any changes into the budget documentation. Public comments will be received in June, before the revisions are adopted.
To listen to a complete audio record of this and other past city council meetings, visit the city web site, Those along with links to attend upcoming meetings via live stream are available on the council agendas. Comments from the public are heard via Zoom, email or in person.