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Lathrop rolling out budget for 2013-14

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POSTED May 29, 2013 1:45 a.m.

LATHROP – It’s going to be a busy month for Cari James.

Not only will the acting finance director be getting ready to close out the City of Lathrop’s books for the year starting next month, but she’s also making the transition that allows for Measure C to start rolling into the city’s coffers (voters approved the measure in November and the first payment is expected in September).

With the Measure C oversight committee meeting for the first time tonight and the city council gearing up for a round of budget workshops that will put the city’s finances into perspective, James and her finance department staff are hard at work making sure that every decimal place is properly accounted for.

And even last-minute changes – something that the city council is known for in the pair of marathon budget sessions that come before the end of the fiscal year – are planned for.

“We’re ready for it,” she said. “It’s just going into the computer and making the necessary changes. This is something that we’ve been doing for a while and we have the processes in place so when they ask for something to be changed it really isn’t too difficult for us to make those changes and show that on an updated budget.”

Starting today, ordinary residents will get the chance to view and even download Lathrop’s proposed 2013/14 annual budget. For most people it’s just line items, numbers and tally marks, but James knows not only what’s coming up in the next year but where the city will be in five years and where it has come since they passed a budget five years ago.

Positive outlooks abound.

At one point the city was looking at an operating deficit of more than $15 million, and a series of harsh cuts – including decimating the staffing levels at city hall, mandating weekly furloughs and eliminating programs – helped turned that around and create a soft reserve from which the council can rely on.

Now, with the economy on the mend and home construction once again returning to the community, revenue sources look positive and while the golden days of the early 2000’s might be gone forever, the shrill of the market crash might finally be silenced.

But don’t expect James to tell you that. All of her work goes into making sure the numbers work so that the council can do all of the political interpreting.

A new software program – which will be up and running for the next fiscal year – will make that task even easier once the staff is brought up to speed.

“It’s more user-friendly and it’s going to streamline some processes,” she said. “It’s a big undertaking to make a switch like that, but it’s something that other cities around us have already implemented. It’s specialized so it’s different from making a switch to another platform.

“Hopefully it’ll make doing things a little bit easier.”

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