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Bleak Budget Accepted
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After not being able to pass the first presented financial plan for the upcoming year over concerns about reserves, Oakdale city officials on Monday reluctantly accepted the city’s budget but only with the acknowledgement that it would be revisited in October for another approval.

Interim City Manager Greg Wellman and Operations Manager Stan Feathers presented the proposed 2012-2013 Fiscal Year budget that showed over $533,000 in adjustments but stressed that there would be no reduction in public safety service levels thanks to Measure O.

“The city’s financial position will require significant recalibration over the next few years,” said Wellman as he discussed how economic strategies are needed within the city, such as more retail space to generate revenue.

Much of the budget may still be unknown as Wellman pointed out that the State budgets impacts are a major concern on how they affect local governments as well as the impact of redevelopment-successor agency agreements.

“All in all we tried to take quality information at this point and look at a number of scenarios,” Wellman said.

Feathers described the budget as a “lay your cards on the table” draft for the upcoming year.

“We’re in tough shape over the long term,” said Feathers, who is also the incoming interim manager, taking over when Wellman leaves the city.

Operating Engineers Business Representative Michael Eggener, who represents the city’s miscellaneous workers, asked if the cuts were going to come on the backs of non-public safety employees.

Feathers responded that he didn’t know since the upcoming years would test current service levels.

“I’ll make it simple,” pushed Eggener. “Are we looking at outsourcing public works services?”

“We’re looking at it,” responded Feathers.

Much of the concern and bantering on the dais was over what percentage would be left in reserve for the General Fund.

As it was presented at the meeting, only 12 percent would remain in the fund, despite it being at 20 percent in recent years and as high as 50 percent prior to the economic downtown that has impacted many Central Valley communities.

“Twelve percent is scary,” said Councilwoman Katherine Morgan. “I’m very uncomfortable about how low we’re going on reserves.”

“We could have not diverted money to other funds, but the correct thing to do was to apply them,” said Feathers. “Last year we fell into a position where expenses exceeded revenues.”

The budget would require passage by four council members and, with the vacancy left by Jason Howard’s departure, would have to be unanimous.

The first roll call on the budget resolution resulted in a 3-1 vote with Morgan being the lone dissenter.

“What else do you want us to do?” asked Mayor Pat Paul of Morgan. “Cut more to just build up reserves?”

Paul expressed displeasure that there was not more cooperation from her counterparts since a basically unanimous vote was now required.

“Mike (Brennan) used to do this all the time,” Morgan responded. “We should have appointed someone (to the council to fill the vacancy).”

“We had Mickey Peabody,” countered Paul.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Dunlop added that he thought more could be done to get the reserves up to 20 percent.

“I’m willing to address the budget every two weeks if we have to,” Dunlop said.

Councilman Mike Brennan joined the discussion stating he had no bottom reserve level figure if it meant saving the city.
“”I know it’s going to get dark and it’s going to get darker,” Brennan said.

Brennan also said that when making cuts he had to be “cold blooded” when it came to employees.

“I don’t look at faces anymore,” he admitted.

The council discussed options and decided that they could approve the budget and reevaluate it in October.

The budget then received the required 4-0 vote to pass.

In closed session, Mayor Paul announced that there was one remaining issue in the contract to make Interim Police Chief Lester Jenkins the permanent chief. Paul stated that the issue should be resolved by the July 2 council meeting.