For the past 18 months Kurt Spycher and I have been sounding a warning bell over the state of the local economy and our suspicion that the Turlock City budget was not in line with reality. Throughout last summer’s 2008-2009 budget process, many of our questions about what appeared to be a sizable structural budget deficit in both the General Fund and Enterprise fund went ignored. In fact, along with senior staff members, were assured that budgeted revenues and expenditures were right on track and Turlock was meeting fiscal projections despite an ongoing global recession.
Many working for the city and in the community have been left to wonder what the truth is! Fingers have been pointed, charges of micro-managing have flown and people were sadly being forced to choose sides in what some have falsely portrayed as a political-ideological battle. The only battle we should be fighting is how to be fiscally responsible stewards of the public’s money.
The Turlock City Council will be holding a mid-year budget review open to the public on Tuesday, February 10th from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Hall. I strongly encourage all members of the public with an interest in the state of Turlock’s financial health to attend this meeting. I believe that we will be learning that the budget deficit in the General Fund alone is near or above the 5 million dollar mark some of us predicted last year. Budget reserves may provide a temporary cushion if this is truly our situation, but a structural deficit of this magnitude will require us to confront our budget challenges immediately or risk making the problem insurmountable in the near future.
Your voice is important! Because if significant budget cuts are looming and City services are to be reduced, the public should tell its elected representatives which City services you value most and least. We may not be able to accommodate all requests but at least we can begin to form a priority list from which to work because the task ahead may be an unpleasant but necessary prioritization of community needs over community wants.
Vice Mayor, Turlock City Council