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City Budget Update Shows Promise

POSTED October 9, 2012 9:50 p.m.

Oakdale Interim City Manager Stan Feathers gave an optimistic update on the city’s current budget situation at the Monday, Oct. 1 city council meeting highlighting that Measure O has brought in more money than initially expected along with city payroll savings to the general fund from organizational changes.

Feathers stated that the February 2012 mid-year report identified some significant challenges and, with adjustments, the city finished the fiscal year better than they thought they would.

“I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made on the budget,” he said.

Feathers proposed adopting the revised budget he was presenting with some recommendations including updated policy issues, recalibration of the organizational structure, and inter-fund loan documentation.

Positive budget changes included a $200,000 improvement in the city’s general fund over what was anticipated.

Feathers described some of the progress made toward solvency as updating the city’s general plan, closing the Hershey building that was being used to house public works, planning, and parks and recreation services and moving them to the corporation yard. Recreation services were moved to city hall.

Recent changes also include a newly negotiated city attorney contract, consolidation of the fire department management and the transition of a new police chief.

The development of a “game plan” for the wastewater treatment plant shortfall and establishment of a graduate student internship with Stanislaus State were policy issues at work to also assist with the city budget.

“Going forward we need to balance expenditures with our revenues.” Feathers said in introducing the city’s budget strategies. “This is critical for the long-term success for the city.”

Feathers said the city would continue to have a hiring freeze for non-critical areas and reorganize through attrition and retirements of personnel.

Feathers announced that City Clerk Nancy Lilly was retiring and the city was “in transition” in identifying what duties could be assumed by the existing staff.

When addressing the delicate topic of outsourcing and privatization of some services, Feathers said that it would only be practical if the city would see an overall 10 to 15 percent savings by the practice.

Other strategies included focusing on high priority core services and organizational “rightsizing.”

“Where feasible,” Feathers said, “we will reduce low priority and low value services without losing sight of citizen feedback.”

Feathers explained that the process may take time as the community determines what it is willing to sacrifice as a low priority service and how it will be determined.

“We don’t have money to spend on frills,” Feathers said. “We have to get back to basic core services.”

Laid out was the four team organizational structure Feathers said the city would operate with in the future. The “teams” consisted of city hall operations, corp yard functions, the police department, and fire department.

“The four team approach is a good way to go,” Feathers said. “We’re most effective when we do work in teams.”

With recruitment for a permanent city manager under way, Feathers proposed that the city consider the position of Deputy City Manager to oversee public works, planning, and building inspection – all departments that have had vacancies from their previous department heads removed. The actual duties for the proposed position are still being formulated and appointment would not be until a permanent city manager was brought on board.

Feathers displayed graphs on the city’s cash position showing all funds in the budget and a specific general fund graph showing that the city nearly ran out of money in November and December of 2011. In January, 2012 the city’s finances climbed back up to finish the fiscal year at $1.4 million in its general fund.

Feathers closed his presentation stating the city was moving forward with labor negotiations and would move forward with policy and budget issues. The council accepted the revised budget by a unanimous 4-0 vote.

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