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Nixing banquet would have sent wrong signal

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POSTED March 26, 2009 4:22 a.m.

I’d like to thank the Manteca Bulletin for highlighting our Employee Banquet in Monday’s paper.  I’m sure our employees appreciated the recognition.  I’d also like to respond to Tuesday’s opinion column criticizing our decision to hold a banquet in these tough economic times.

I fully agree that every City expenditure should be questioned in these tough economic times.  I can also understand why some would object to holding a banquet this year.  Our management staff also had great concerns about holding the function this year.  It was the subject of a great deal of discussion late last year.

Ultimately, we determined that having a banquet this year would be an important component of our goal to work with our employees to reduce the cost of City government here in Manteca.  As most of you know, our employees have already agreed to give back $1.1 million in salary that they were contractually owed in fiscal year 2009-2010.  With an $11 million budget gap, this is only a down payment on the many changes we’ll need to make in order to balance next year’s budget.

I felt that cutting out the banquet would send the wrong message to our employees.  I wanted to make it clear that we appreciate their hard work and that we are going to make it through these hard times as a team.  I strongly believe that the banquet cost of $13 per employee (1/8,000th of their average total compensation) is a small investment that will pay great dividends as we work together to meet our budget goals.

Acknowledging the tough economic times, we reduced the approved banquet budget of $9,200 by nearly 50 percent.  Management staff and the employee groups kicked in another $1,500 of their own money, and we made sure that every dollar spent for the event stayed in Manteca.  We’re also looking at even more cost-effective ways to hold our employee recognition function in the future.

In my short tenure in Manteca, I’ve been impressed with the vision of our City Council and staff to accomplish major goals with minimal resources.  Our workforce is far smaller than similar-sized cities, and our revenue base is less diverse than many of our counterparts.  In spite of these challenges, we’ve seen huge changes for the better in this community over the past five years.  I believe a key to this success was a strategy that balances fiscal prudency with bold, strategic investments.  I strongly feel that continuing to recognize our workforce in this small, yet meaningful way is consistent with this strategy.

To access City Manager Steve Pinkerton’s blog go to  www.ci.manteca.ca.us/blog/

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