Fairfield leaders on 2018 budget: City living within its means

Fairfield leaders consistently talk about being frugal with taxpayer dollars, and say they proved it when City Council approved Monday the 2018 proposed operating budget.

City Finance Director Mary Hopton is estimating a 5 percent increase in its revenues over 2017’s projected totals, and estimates expenditures to be around a 3 percent increase. Through October, the city is on pace to collect nearly $78 million in revenues for its operations while spending close to the initial estimate of $71.4 million — and both numbers are expected to be close to the original estimates from when the 2017 budget was approved, Hopton said.

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There were no surprises in the 2018 operating budget, which is growing at the 3 percent to 3.5 percent cost of living rate, Fairfield City Councilman Tim Abbott said

“We’re living within our means, and we continue to grow our rainy day fund to deal with any future recessions or downturns,” said Abbott.

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Living within the city’s means, Abbott said, “is absolutely the most critical thing for our bond rating, for us to be able to finance projects at a very low cost to the taxpayers, and to keep the quality of life that our residents here in Fairfield are used to.”

Years ago, city leaders moved to keep its rainy day fund at 25 percent of operational expenses, which will grow to $7.5 million in 2018.

Nearly 80 percent of the city’s revenues come from four sources — income tax, charges for service, property tax and state tax — while 78 percent of the expenses are spent on public safety, general government, public utilities, and public health and welfare.

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The city’s fire department was the only department to see a significant increase to its budget, but that’s because of an increase in personnel after a near-$1 million federal staffing grant it received. About 75 percent of the cost to fund four new firefighters will be paid by the grant in its first year.

And because of the 2016 2.5-mill fire levy that voters approved, the department also promoted two officers to deputy fire chief and another to captain. The department is also expanding the number of firefighters on duty, from 13 to 17 per shift.

City Council also approved $33,000 in grants for four area organizations. For 2018, Fairfield Community Foundation and Fairfield Food Pantry will each receive $10,000, Partners in Prime will receive $8,000, and Summer Community Theater will receive $5,000.

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