Meeting the wishes of the Oakdale City Council from an earlier meeting this month, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer laid out a revised city budget at the Monday, June 17 meeting that wasn’t as aggressive in cuts and saving two firefighter positions that had been proposed for lay-offs.
“It’s a struggle to come to grips with what we have, but I’m optimistic we will pull through,” said Whitemyer.
With an operating deficit of $1 million and the need to pay off over $10 million in general fund obligations, Whitemyer presented a series of slides showing future costs mostly associated with retirement costs and the South Willowood Drive fire station.
Part of the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year budget includes significant reduction to the city’s recreation programs. With the previous removal of the recreation coordinator, listed as part of the revised budget strategy, Whitemyer stated there would be no city sponsored farmers market and movies in the park next year.
“Our hope is to pull together with the community to see if service groups or other volunteers could step forward,” Whitemyer said regarding keeping the programs going.
City employee concession of paying their entire five percent share of their PERS retirement contribution is expected to make up $165,000 to the general fund.
The new budget also calls for two vacant police officer positions to remain vacant.
Whitemyer addressed Measure O concerns regarding public safety vacancies that had been previously brought up by the public.
The Measure O half-cent sales tax initiative was passed by voters in November 2011 partially to maintain public safety services.
Whitemyer called on Police Chief Lester Jenkins and Stanislaus Consolidated Battalion Chief Kevin Wise to show how response times have not been affected by cuts in staffing.
“When you look at public safety service levels, we’ve complied with the spirit of Measure O,” Whitemyer said.
Part of Whitemyer’s proposal included retaining $840,000 for the city’s general plan, needed to bring in retail business and revenue to the city.
“We have not increased our ‘commercial footprint’,” Whitemyer said. “We’re exactly where we were in 2003.”
Whitemyer advised the council that the city did not have a vacant 20 acre commercially zoned space that would be needed if a new company or retail business wanted to move into the city. With the general plan, those opportunities could move forward.
During discussion, Councilman Farrell Jackson inquired, with the two less police officers, if overtime would become an issue.
Chief Jenkins explained that the department had 10 reserve officers that had helped out and, at times, staffing has been lowered in the early morning hours to adjust for anticipated vacancies.
Councilman Don Petersen praised the work of Whitemyer for the budget efforts stating a year ago there was no access to the data presented.
Councilman Mike Brennan suggested removing the shared $24,000 school crossing guard expense to the city and having the school district assume the total cost.
“It’s time for the schools to put forward with that,” said Brennan, pointing out that Governor Brown had been taking money from cities and counties and “giving it” to schools.
Brennan also said he believed street sweeping was more important due to maintaining the city’s infrastructure.
The council voted 5-0 to pass the city’s budget to take effect July 1, 2013.