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Lathrop surprised by $1.5M expense, cuts 3 jobs including police detective

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POSTED July 17, 2012 12:53 a.m.

LATHROP – The pension and retirement bug has finally bit the City of Lathrop.

Last month the Lathrop City Council agreed to use just over $373,000 from general fund reserves to cover a budget shortfall with the stipulation that they’d find other sources revenue to replenish what was borrowed.

And that bill – and a whole lot more – came due Monday night.

Unexpected additional operating costs to the city over the course of the next two years will total up to just under $1.5 million. That’s after annual contract payments to the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department – required to cover the benefit and retirement package as spelled out in the recently-inked agreement – and other shortfalls were added up.

The solution? The council voted unanimously to lay off one full-time city employee – an information technology analyst that was on the chopping block last year during budget discussions – as well as a part-time legal secretary and a Lathrop Police Detective. The city will also un-fund one position in the Parks and Recreation Department and fill another to save $414,000 in total staff costs.

An additional $28,000 was hacked from operational concessions like the $15,000 that the City Manager has allocated for marketing and the $10,000 that the building department uses for plan checking. The money that would be used to send one member of the council – usually the representative to the San Joaquin Council of Governments – back to Washington, D.C., for the annual San Joaquin County One Voice trip is also gone.

 “This is the hardest part of the job that we do – having to let somebody go,” Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal said before the council took a somber vote. “But we have to make sure that the city stays solvent.”

Last year the council voted to tap into the same funds used to cover the shortfall in order to keep all of the employees that were on the verge of being laid-off with the exception of the Economic Development Consultant position that was due to be filled permanently in the new round of funding.

A skeleton crew at city hall – Dhaliwal pointed out that administrator Becky Enneking is technically running three departments at the moment – has made it difficult to cut away any more without severely impacting the services offered to the public.

The decision came just after the council voted unanimously to place a one-cent sales tax increase measure on the November ballot that could bring an additional $2 million in revenue to Lathrop’s coffers every year. With an operating deficit expected for five of the next six years, the influx could help the community weather the foreseeable future.

But the money being saved with Monday’s decision still won’t completely erase the red in the ledger – accounting for roughly one-third of the money that’ll be needed to cover all of the foreseeable bills through 2013.

When the county released the property value assessments last week the city took another hit when the expected numbers which were supposed to be stabilized actually dipped 2.3 percent. That ended being a $64,000 hit.

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