Turlock City Council Approves Budget With $4.4 Million Deficit Spending, Cuts But No Layoffs

After the last special budget meeting the Turlock City Council had on Tuesday, Council members approved the fiscal year 2012-2013 General and Non-General Fund budgets with a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Amy Bublak voting in opposition.

While the City will continue to have more expenditures than revenue, the deficit amount will still not be determined until a few months time.

Although the adopted budget does include some cuts, no layoffs were reflected within the budget. The Council agreed upon the Police Departments recommendation to cut three positions that are currently vacant.

General Fund Reserves are projected at $14,021,294, and is set to maintain a hard General Fund Reserve of $6,500,000. While the city is set to spend $4,400,000 of its reserves, City Manager Roy Wasden informed the council that the figure would decrease once negotiations were made with city unions in October, when the existing contracts are set to terminate. Once negotiations are concluded, a budget amendment will be prepared reflecting the actual deficit spending required to maintain comparable service levels for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Amy Bublak, however, did not agree with the decision to pass the budget with the hopes of negotiations in the future to decrease the amount of reserve funds being spent. Bublak focused on the current economic hardships, such as the impact of the elimination of the Redevelopment Agency and the consequent loss of funding, while showing very little support to the proposed budget.

“That doesn’t come off well to our union members, that ‘okay we’re putting this on you now,” stated Bublak. “This is going to happen if you go along with us, but if you don’t go along with us, then the sky is falling.’ I just feel uncomfortable posing that to them, that is the perception I would get if I were an employee with a City that did this.”

City Manager Roy Wasden explained that the reasoning behind moving the negotiation contracts to October outside of the General Budget discussion was due to the recommendation that when the negotiations are to be made in October, the City will be able to determine where the budget is and how that figure would influence contract decisions, allowing the City and city unions to go into an agreement with more valuable information.

“I just have a really hard time saying yes to such a deficit,” stated Bublak. “I’m working through this, but I don’t want to put my name, my legacy, behind a huge deficit that we may incur. We’re supposed to be cutting back, and everybody has worked on it, but I just don’t want to say ‘Absolutely City of Turlock, let’s go under.’ I just don’t feel comfortable putting my name behind it.”

“Okay, vote ‘No’ then. Let’s go,” snapped Mayor John Lazar in response to Bublak’s continued hesitancy.

The Council then voted to adopt the recommended General and Non General Fund Budgets for fiscal year 2012-2013 with a 4-1 vote, with Bublak retaining her stance against the proposal.

Another issue that City Council members discussed within the conversation of the General Fund budget was the idea of the City paying for a lobbyist in Washington D.C., as a partnership between Modesto and Stanislaus County. The original recommendation was to pay $86,000 to pay for lobbying at both the state and federal levels; however, the Council felt it unnecessary to hire a lobbyist in Sacramento, due to the current economic condition of the State.

With the exception of Councilwoman Bublak, the Council supported the idea of hiring a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. with a payment of $50,000. Mayor John Lazar fully supported the idea, as recalling his trip to Washington D.C last year leading to an increase in money for the City of Turlock. He also mentioned the importance of having the City’s voice heard at the Nation’s capital, as relying on legislators is not fully effective.

The Council’s vote on the recommendation to pay for a federal lobbyist resulted in a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Bublak voting in opposition.

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