Turlock Council Budget Adoption Saves Jobs and Services with $3.6 Million Deficit

The Turlock City Council adopted the 2010-11 budget on June 23, 2010 and quite calmly despite the many contentious issues that arose during the public budget subcommittee process along with last Council’s June 17, 2010 Special Meeting discussion on Council giving up their City provided medical insurance.

Through many operational cuts and strategy revisions, the City has reduced the budget deficit spending from $5.9 million down to $3.6 million. This is more than Council had been willing to over-spend while having a nearly $17.5 million in reserves but some more potential savings are expected upward of $1 million after labor union negotiations are finalized plus the pending insurance agreement.
 
As of now, the 2010-11 budget adoption does not include any layoffs.
 
At a Special Council Meeting on June 17, 2010 the Council agreed to the insurance policy changes proposed by Winton-Ireland Insurance Agency, Inc. that would save the City of Turlock $624,990 annually but a majority of the changes are pending the acceptance by all labor unions that are currently still in negotiations with the City with a now crucially set deadline of July 15, 2010.
 
The changes pending union acceptance are increasing pharmacy co-pay from $10 generic/25 brand name/40 non preferred brand name that will save an estimated $56,890 annually, increase office visit cost to $20 that will save $132,661 annually, and increasing hospital co-pay to $250/$500 saving $149,674 annually.
 
City Manager Roy Wasden announced that labor bargaining groups have meaningfully come forward with concessions knowing the tough times everyone is in. The City of Turlock and labor unions are in an agreement that after a 5 percent salary cost reduction last year, the City would not be able to come to the unions asking for further concessions.
 
The Turlock City Council unanimously voted that all elected officials give up their City provided medical insurance, saving the City of Turlock an estimated $90,000 annually.
 
Per the request of Councilwoman Amy Bublak, the savings are to contribute toward funding recreation, more specifically the pools.
 
On Tuesday’s agenda, a continued request to authorize suspension of recreation swimming sessions at Turlock and Pitman High Schools for a savings of $18,000.
 
Councilwoman Mary Jackson requested two weeks ago that this agenda be deferred to a later date and give the community time to contribute toward the cause of keeping the pools open.
 
An announcement at the Council Meeting proved that Turlock’s community took on the effort and raised $14,425.00, including a $6,000 donation from the Turlock Fire Fighter Union Local 2434. These donations, along with Council’s decision to cut their insurance to help fund the pools specifically, saved recreation swimming sessions at Turlock and Pitman High Schools while continuing to keep open Columbia Pool.
 
A split vote did occur on one issue while adopting the 2010-11 City budget, whether or not to lay off, contract out, or keep current staffing and service levels within the housing and engineering divisions.
 
City Manager Roy Wasden explained that he continues to hear strong complaints from the development community in regards to how long it takes to get things done, while there is also not enough work to keep employees busy. Wasden also said that the unresponsiveness of a third party contractor is a major concern of the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee.
 
City Engineer Mike Pitcock clarified that staff is busy, but they are busy trying to enhance customer service and addressing the concerns stated by Wasden. If Council doesn’t want that, then they would not be needed as much and might be cut. It’s a Council policy decision. Pitcock also stated that the divisions could handle any development coming in with the challenge of accepting multiple development projects, which the City is hoping to have.
 
Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher and Councilman Ted Howze proposed bringing in-line employees to work load, cutting 3 employees and not filling 2 positions being left by retirements. This would keep from going in the red by next year and taking General Fund dollars over the next 24 months.
 
Mayor John Lazar and Councilwoman Mary Jackson advocated for keeping staff and their experience on-hand while trying to meet the full service needs of the development community.
 
Councilwoman Amy Bublak proposed waiting 6 months before making any decisions and then evaluating how accurate the staff reports are at that time.
 
Councilwoman Amy Bublak’s proposal was approved by Mayor John Lazar, Councilwoman Mary Jackson, and Councilwoman Mary Jackson.
 
The Turlock Police Department’s proposed $600,000 in cuts, that would all negatively impact services provided to the community, was postponed by Council pending labor negotiations due to be finalized by July 15.
 
Eliminated services would include: Eliminating the K-9 program, several support positions, closing the Police Station lobby for reports two days per week, cutting transcription services which would make officers write their reports and inefficiently taking them off the street to write hours worth of reports.
 
Also decided was to replace 1,800 street light bulbs with induction lighting by accepting a $566,290 grant that could save the city an estimated $170,000 annually in electricity costs. 1,600 light bulbs will be replaced at intersections and crucial locations for safety purposes, 74 bulbs will be replaced in parks, and the rest will be put in assessment districts where residents pay fees toward their development area’s costs. Accepting the grant will require the City’s commitment to keep them powered for 10 years and so putting the energy efficient bulbs where they will most likely always have to be on or where they are self funded was a concern by Vice Mayor Spycher so it would not obligate future Councils and tie their hands because of the current Council’s decision.
 

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