Turlock’s Budget Requires Cuts, Public or Closed Door Committee Debated

The City of Turlock’s 2010-2011 General Fund Budget could see a deficit of $3 million to nearly $4.2 million while possibly having to cut 27 to 38 General Fund positions.
 
The Turlock City Council was presented with a budget summary given by City Manager Roy Wasden announcing that simply the City needs to bring down spending to revenue levels because there is just no reason to believe the City will see a significant change in the sales tax base.
 
Revenues of $26 to $27 million are not matching the continued approximate $30 million in expenditures.
 
Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher pointed out that the last time the expenses matched the revenues was in 2006-2007.
 
Sales tax budgeting was set at just over $10 million but is now being projected and budgeted at $8.6 million.
 
The only foreseeable option is to bring expenditures down to the revenues generated. The Turlock City Council committed to spending $7.5 million in Reserves through 2011. City Manager Roy Wasden pointed out that the City could be insolvent by 2013 at the current rate of spending to revenues and with the expected economy.
 
The City of Turlock is projected to have around $12 million in Reserves after a loan to the Turlock Redevelopment Agency for the public safety facility is paid back. Before the budget workshop TCEA attorney Bob Phibbs pointed out an error that the $4.5 million loan repayment was noted as being included in the $7.7 Reserve total but was not so that took some scare away and pushed the Reserve total back up to $12 million.
 
Though the numbers are being projected, they are within a range due to the unpredictable sales tax revenue. The one thing everyone seems to agree upon is that everyone needs to work together.
 
At the March 23, 2010 budget workshop, non-public safety managers union representative Michael Cooke stated that they are realists, this economy is the new normal, and that they are willing to work with the City in the budget crisis.
 
Turlock City Employees Association (TCEA) attorney Bob Phibbs also stated that his bargaining group is willing to reopen negotiations while acknowledging that everyone needs to work together on this budget situation.
 
City Manager Roy Wasden is holding an “all-hands” breakfast meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the reality of the 2010-2011 budget situation.
 
Employees contributed ideas toward closing the gap in last year’s budget deficit and are expected to do so again for the 2010-2011 budget.

Despite Council’s high prioritization of public safety, cuts will most likely have to come from the entire government organization as there are only 43 non-public safety General Fund positions. Most of the General Fund expenses are public safety.

 
 
Budget Committee Meeting in Public or Behind Closed Doors?
 
Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher recommended that there be a budget ad hoc subcommittee comprised of Mayor John Lazar and Councilman Ted Howze. Both Council Members served as the budget ad hoc subcommittee last year also.
 
“I think the most productive way we’ve done it is with the budget subcommittee,” said Vice Mayor Spycher. “I know that in the past, the amount of time and effort that’s been put into that, and the candid conversations that can be had with everybody behind closed doors, and strategies that have come back… They’ve brought that before the Council as a whole and we’ve been able to kind of look at it and take what we want, tweak it a little bit, and move forward.”
 
“I do not agree with a budget subcommittee,” said Councilwoman Mary Jackson. “I would like us to have public budget study sessions where we have the public in the evening when the public can come, and give us ideas, as well as the employees… I would do the public’s business in public.”
 
Mayor John Lazar stated “Personally I don’t mind having the entire Council participate, I’ll do it either way. I’ve done it both ways over the past 18 years.”
 
Councilman Ted Howze stated “I much prefer we do it as a subcommittee for the simple reason that any information the subcommittee’s brought back has always been discussed in public and voted on by the full Council, ultimately with the opportunity for public input.”
 
“The other thing is we know from working in that subcommittee, every crazy idea under the sun gets thrown out what we’re going to do with the budget… And frankly some of the crazy ideas we’ve thrown out would scare the bejesus out of people just going threw the process,” said Councilman Howze.
 
Mayor John Lazar suggested that there be a public report from the City’s department heads and workshop before forming the budget ad hoc subcommittee.
 
Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher and Councilwoman Amy Bublak agreed with Mayor Lazar.
 
Councilwoman Mary Jackson continued to disagree and expressed her desire to hold whatever subcommittee meetings in the evening and that the public be able to attend.
 
City employee Cathy Tucker expressed concern with the proposed budget subcommittee members by saying “I mean no disrespect to the Mayor and Council but I have concerns with the two people you have suggested be on the budget subcommittee. There’s animosity between them, we all know that… It’s just not going to work to the benefit of the City. ”
 
“I am happy to step aside and let someone else step into this role if they want to be on the budget subcommittee,” said Mayor Lazar.
 
Tucker reiterated by saying “I think we really do want you on our budget subcommittee.”
 
The Turlock City Council will discuss the possibility of forming a budget ad hoc subcommittee at the April 13, 2010 Council Meeting along with holding another public budget workshop at 6pm that same night before the regular Council Meeting.

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