S.P. City Council approves budget

June 24, 2011
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council approved the FY 2011-2012 budget Monday night, a plan Mayor Fred Robinson said allowed the city to “get a handle on the fiscal house.”

The council voted 4-0 in favor of the new budget - Councilman Ralph Fernandez was absent from the meeting - that was balanced, in spite of a projected $1.8 million shortfall and the depletion of a $1.2 million reserve fund. The $32 million budget is already almost spent, with $27.8 million earmarked for expenditures.

The General Fund budget will have $11.6 million in revenues and $11 million in expenditures, consultant Tom Gardner told the council. The new budget will also have some leftover funding to again start building a reserve that the council - in a separate action - established spending and reporting guidelines for.

Last month city employee pay cuts amounting to five percent were initiated and furlough days announced. The city now will collect a franchise fee and property lease fees from the company that took over the refuse division and benefit from equipment sales, as well as from dipping into the now defunct enterprise’s reserve. City development and other fees have been raised.

There was also an end of fiscal year $1-plus million bump in sales and property tax that city officials believe will continue, but Gardner said the city must not rely on such revenue alone to stay solvent.

Councilman Rick Cook noted the shrinking city staff projected to be slightly less than 100 employees, a 33 percent reduction over three years, and questioned exact numbers per department or function. Cook noted he has the same questions as the absent Fernandez as far as how many employees work and are paid out of enterprise divisions versus general fund.

Vice Mayor Bob Gonzales, the retired police chief, questioned a $27,000 contract expense listed for the police department, noting, “Perhaps the chief can shed some light on this.”

Police Chief Steve MacKinnon said with the early retirement of Lt. Carlos Juarez in July and the expected retirement of Lt. Troyce Reynolds late this year, there is work that still must be done. “I anticipate a number of duties that both lieutenants have been doing that will still have to be performed,” such as jail and fleet management and aspects of training, among others. With the loss of even one lieutenant, MacKinnon said, management “can’t do it all,” and contracting is the most cost-effective solution.

Cook questioned liability if “someone messes up, they don’t do it right... does it fall back on us or are they bonded?” The city is ultimately responsible for mandated record keeping, said MacKinnon. He added the department presently has two contract employees whose duties will be expanded.

“So we didn’t get the full benefit of one officer retiring” in saved salary, said Gonzales. MacKinnon agreed, and noted contract costs will be higher when the second lieutenant retires at the end of the year.

Cook noted the growing workload of city employees as the total of workers continues to shrink: “You’ve just got to bless somebody,” he said. “There’s nobody to bless,” said MacKinnon.

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