Record tax revenue helps Visalia cope with inflation
Another factor in the city’s lower-than-expected costs was vacancies, a category that has continued to grow during the pandemic. The city currently has 30 vacancies, mostly in public safety. Wages continue to rise with minimum wage as the city must keep pace with other parts of California in retaining employees, further complicated by labor shortages. Baby boomers are leaving the workforce in record numbers amid the silver tsunami while many young workers have quit the physical workforce through remote working, allowing them to take better paying jobs out of the region while taking advantage of the valley’s lower cost of living. The city signed three-year contracts with its labor groups last year so it could budget for a 4% increase in wages each year through 2023-24. The general increase represents the bulk of the city’s $7.2 million increase in spending over the next two years.
Despite the vacancies, the city is proposing to add a dozen new employees in 2022-23 and half a dozen more in 2023-24. Of the 18 positions, six are for the police department, five for public works, three for administration and two for community development and finance.
Inflation is also compounding the city’s efforts to control pension costs, health care premiums and repairs to aging infrastructure, all of which were costly before inflation hit a 40-year high.
Record revenues will not put all departments in the dark. The city will still have to subsidize the convention center, sewage treatment plant, animal control, public transit and storm sewers. However, these losses are easily absorbed over the next few years with a total budget of $259 million and $269 million over the next two years.
The budget will return to the board for final approval on June 6 and is subject to change until then. Visalia must approve its budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 or be in violation of its own city charter. The full budget document can be viewed on the city’s website (visalia.city) by clicking on “Proposed Budget” on the Department of Finance homepage.