These are some of the measures the city is looking at to cut costs as it faces a pretty challenging economic situation. And which the City Council will discuss at its Tuesday night meeting.
After the city adopted a two-year $136 million budget for 2008-10, the global economy plunged into the crapper (as the great economist John McCain said), and the city wound up looking at a $7.3 million shortfall. That includes the $1.7 million the state might take away, but which the city would cover with its emergency reserve fund. Speaking of the reserve fund, the city still has $6.9 million in emergency reserves.
Here are some highlights from the budget balancing plan, which you can read here at the city's website:
MAJOR REVENUE SOURCES SEE BIGGER-THAN-EXPECTED DROPS
--Property taxes: For 10 years prior to 2008-09, property tax revenues increased 8 percent a year. Last spring, expecting the economic slowdown, the increase was projected to only be 4 percent for 2008-09. Bottom Line: Increases only 2 percent; further 4 percent decrease expected for 2009-10.
--Sales tax: Conservative budget estimates in June 2008 held that revenue would essentially be flat through 2009-10; that the decline for 2008-09 would be 2 percent, then a 2 percent increase for 2009-10. In fact: Consumer confidence dipped so dramatically that auto sales (35 percent of city’s sales tax base) and retail sales significantly, estimated at more than $6 million through 2009-10.
--Some sorta good news, coming from arts and recreation programs: Drops in development fees, with the slowdown in construction, and in parking revenues as a result of fewer visitors to downtown were offset partially by earnings increases from recreation and arts programs, including productions at the Lesher Center, where the in-house theater company, Center Repertory Company, has,despite the recession, enjoyed healthy ticket sales.
Note to self/city: Hmm, people are stilll willing to spend on entertainment during tough times. Hey, movies theaters nationally and locally are apparently thriving, as they did during the Great Depression. As for that decline in parking revenues: a sign to the city that they need to not be so, forgive my French, hard-ass in their meter ticketing practices, to make the city more inviting?
Employee benefits: As with all businesses and public agencies, the city saw medical insurance premium costs grow by double digits each year, and pension costs increased, as the stock market investments—needed to pay retirees—suffered one of the most severe drops since the Great Depression.
Highlights of The Plan for balancing the budget:
--Salary cuts for City Council, 24 percent. Savings: $17,500--Salary cuts for executive staff—City manager, city attorney, personnel director and department directors—of 6.5 in 2009-10 and 8.75 in 2010-11. Savings: $200,000
--Proposed compensation reductions for police and other employee groups. Savings: $3 million
--Staff cuts, changes: Freeze 22 vacant staff positions, convert three full-time positions to half time, accepting retirements of several employees, four staff lay-offs. Savings: $1.35 million
Construction of the library is “proceeding very well.” Projects remains on schedule to open by mid-2010 and to finish within the $42 million budget. In fact, the financial crisis meant that the construction bid came in around $5 million below cost.
However, the city plans to reduce the library project budget by $500,000 by:
--Leaving the conference room, technology center, and business center unfinished and ask the Walnut Creek Library Foundation to raise funds above their $5 million pledge to cover these costs.
--Cutting funds for the Opening Day Collection—that is new books and other materials purchased for new, bigger library. The Friends of the Library have already raised $100,000
--Reduce the public art budget by $30,000, and the remaining budget by $90,000
UPDATE: According to Tuesday's Contra Costa Times, a subcommittee of parents, school leaders, city staff, and City Council members are urging the City Council to agree to cover the entire $110,000 cost for 2009-10 for crossing guards at 10 intersections near Walnut Acres, Bancroft Elementary, Buena Vista, and Walnut Heights elementaries, and at Foothill and Walnut Creek intermediates. But the city and school districts may have to find other ways to fund the crossing guard program in the future.
Note to city/school districts: Aren’t there parent volunteers who could handle the crossing guard duties. That was the case at my son’s Walnut Creek elementary.