Orange Cove adopts balanced 2024-25 budget

Orange Cove City Council approves fiscal year 2024-25 operating budget while emphasizing need for Measure O funding

Financial consultant Patrick Chaffee presents the 2024-25 operating budget for the city of Orange Cove to the Orange Cove City Council June 26, 2024. Chaffee was brought on to the city staff temporarily while the city continues to search for a finance director. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published June 28, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

ORANGE COVE – Surrounded by agriculture and tucked against the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, residents of Orange Cove experience the California economy much differently than those of Los Angeles or San Francisco. 

Orange Cove’s 2024-25 operating budget reflects that reality, Patrick Chaffee, a financial consultant brought on by the city, said. In the absence of a permanent finance director, Chaffee helped the city build a budget — unanimously approved by the Orange Cove City Council at its June 26 meeting — that maintains current operations but leaves little room for new services.

“There’s a lot of requests that we wanted that we’re going to have to hold off in order to keep balanced,” Chaffee said. “If you want to add something, you would have to pick something to remove, and there’s other things where we’re making projections and midway through the year you may identify either redirection or savings that could be diverted towards another initiative.”

Projections for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, estimate the city will receive just $3.6 million in general fund revenue, a number that pales in comparison to neighboring cities. Chaffee said approximately $2.6 million will come from tax revenue, with the remainder coming from fees and reimbursements for city services, grants and other miscellaneous revenue sources. 

Other revenue projections include $4 million for the city’s enterprise fund, which pays for utility services including water, sewer and trash disposal, and $15 million in special revenue funds, which comes from impact fees, grants and funds set aside for capital improvement projects. 

Looking at expenses, the city is proposing a budget of $8.5 million for payroll, supplies and services, with 55% of the budget going toward the public works department and 29% going toward public safety. 

“When you’re looking at the departments and the amount of things being budgeted – if you think in those terms – we are a public works organization, we are a public safety organization,” Chaffee said. 

Although the city has not been able to fulfill various requests from the council and residents, including a desire to have a full-time parks and recreation department, Chaffee said some budget requests were able to be worked in. Using funds available through impact fees, the 2024-25 budget includes $175,000 for a splash pad at J.O. Eaton Memorial Park.

“I understand a few years ago that we were really trying to get a splash pad and through budget development, I was able to identify some funds sitting in impact fees that could be used to be directed to the splash pad that we can get installed right over there,” Chaffee said. 

Chaffee said City Manager Daniel Parra “has put his whole heart” into the splash pad and is trying to get it done this year, though the exact timeline is uncertain. 

Public safety funding

One of the more significant changes in the 2024-25 budget is a reduction in public safety funding that will hit the city around the end of November, Chaffee said. This is because the city’s special tax fund, known as Measure O, failed to receive voter approval in the March elections and will expire on Nov. 30. 

Measure O provided approximately $260,000 in revenue to the city each year, with 80% being directed toward police department personnel and 20% going toward the Orange Cove Fire Protection District. Without funding from Measure O, the city plans to “freeze” a full-time patrol officer position that is currently vacant, so the position will remain budgeted but not be filled while the city pursues other funding, Chaffee said. 

“We are going aggressively after some other grants,” Parra said. 

Including the frozen position, the city’s police department budget allows for 11 officers, three sergeants and one police chief, along with two records clerks and an animal control officer position. Chaffee said the city was able to fulfill a request to transition the animal control officer position from part-time to full-time and make a one-time $55,000 purchase of a police patrol vehicle.

The city will also purchase $9,000 in animal control equipment to help abate the stray animal issue within the city, and it is receiving a donated animal control vehicle as a donation. 

Council members said they would continue to push for Measure O to be renewed, likely at the November election, and stressed the importance of funding the police department. Prior to the department’s establishment in 2009, the city relied on the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to respond to service calls.

“A lot of you knew – before we got a police department – how it was,” Mayor pro tem Gilbert Garcia said. “We all know how the streets were before, I don’t have to remind you of that. I don’t know if you want to go back to that; that’s going to be on the residents, whether they want to go back or not.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter