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Lathrop leaders looking to cut $1.2 million from budget

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POSTED June 8, 2009 12:34 a.m.
LATHROP – Lathrop City Council members and staff will hold budget reviews this week even as they continue efforts to find ways to cut $1.2 million more from an anticipated budget deficit of about $2.5 million in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Negotiations with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, which provides police services for Lathrop, and the Service Employees International Union which represents more than half of the city employees are still continuing.
Ten employees and five funded but unfilled positions were the first casualties in the first phase of the budget cuts implemented last month. Now, the city is in talks with the Sheriff’s Office to see if there are any possible expenses areas to eliminate and save money. At the same time, the city is continuing negotiations with union representatives for further financial-belt tightening. Furloughs may be the next step if the remaining budget deficit is not solved by more layoffs.
Those are tough decisions to make especially when it comes to the police services, said Council member Dhaliwal.
But, he said, “Cutting police service will be the last option, as far as I’m concerned. Public safety is my number one priority.”
Lathrop’s current contract with the Sheriff’s Office is nearly $4.5 million a year for a staff of 30 that includes a police chief and 14 patrol officers.
The goal of the contract, Dhaliwal said, is for the city to have one and a half officer for every 1,000 residents. The city’s population currently stands at around 17,600.
Like all cities in California, Lathrop is also bracing for another financial tsunami coming from the state which is also scrambling to whittle down its $27 billion to $29 billion budget deficit for the coming 2009-10 fiscal year. With the failure of Proposition 1A in the May 19 special elections, Governor Schwarzenegger is making good on his promise to dip into cities’ and other agencies’ financial resources, namely property tax incomes, to help balance the state budget. Lathrop is expected to lose $430,000 of this income which goes to the general fund which is the money used for city operations.
“With sales tax also lagging, it is estimated that the city will see about an additional 20 percent reduction in revenues into the General Fund I FY 2009-2010 and beyond,” City Manager Cary Keaten writes in the introductory message to the 2009-10 preliminary budget that has just been released to council members and other interested parties. The preliminary budget is also available online in the city’s official web site.
But like Dhaliwal, Council member Robert Oliver is also hesitant to compromise the city’s safety by cutting the funds for police services.
“Public safety is a major factor and I think the citizens are willing to pay for that. We have a growing problem in Lathrop; this is not the time to cut back on police protection,” Oliver said.
He is not sure how much police protection the city can afford, he added, but that Sheriff Steve Moore has prepared a complete study of “what they do and how much we pay them and the council will sit down and decide which of these we can do without.”
Among them are the anti-drug student-targeted D.A.R.E. program in the schools which is a preventative program, and a resource officer for the schools.
“All these things are good, but city revenues are down,” he said.
Budget reviews, which are always open to the public, will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 5 p.m. and will continue until discussions are concluded. These special meetings will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail ralbanorisso@mantecabulletin.com or call (209) 249-3536.

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