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No layoffs in Lathrop for 1st time in two years

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POSTED June 13, 2013 1:21 a.m.

LATHROP – For the first time in two years the City of Lathrop will pass a budget that doesn’t call for employee layoffs.

Last week the Lathrop City Council met with city staffers to approve individual departmental budgets during an annual workshop that until this year included the back-and-forth discussion about whether to tap into reserves in order to fund positions that were cut from the budget.

Two years ago then City Manager Cary Keaten submitted a proposal the day after the budget discussion that called for a handful of positions to be slashed in order to balance his proposal to the council, and last year the council overrode the removal of several positions when they approved spending more than $300,000 from general fund reserves to keep positions funded as long as alternative funding sources were discovered.

And when it’s all said and done, the number of people employed by the City of Lathrop will actually increase.

With the approval of the Measure C budget – signed-off on by an independent oversight committee that met for the first time earlier this month – Lathrop Police Services will end up hiring four new police officers by the end of the year. The city will add two new positions and the police hiring will bring Lathrop’s contracted number of employees to 28 – up from only 22 last year.

Additional development in the community – namely the construction on the first set of homes at River Islands – is expected to help offset the costs in the community development department and will fund additional staff required to meet the rising demand in departments that until recently were barren.

An influx of money from Measure C, which the State of California started collecting earlier this year, is expected by this fall and will help not only with police and fire personnel (the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District gets 40 percent of all monies collected) but also community programs that will be approved by the independent oversight committee.

The city is more than a year removed from the mandatory furlough program that was enacted when the housing crisis hit the community hard after the credit crunch of 2008, and the slight uptick in costs associated with its conclusion last year were factored in to the 2013/14 budget.

Essentially – Lathrop is a community on the mend.

Here are a few of the things currently in the works:

• A rendering for the Generations Center – the $5 million teen center and library being constructed near Lathrop High School – was recently completed, and grant money received will foot the bill for the majority of the initial construction required to complete the project. The official groundbreaking will be on June 21.

• Pretty soon Lathrop Road – pock-marked with railroad crossing and stoplights – will be a virtual expressway. The city is moving forward with plans on the Westerly Grade Separation project that will construct a second flyover that will carry traffic over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The project will require some reworking of existing roadways, but will improve the overall traffic flow of one Lathrop’s arterial corridors.

• A possible solar system project that could end up saving the city millions of dollars over the course of the next three decades. An analyst was brought in to determine the best course of action for the city, and recommended inking a contract with an independent power provider that would construct solar panels at five city-owned sites and sell the city electricity at a fixed, reduced cost for the life of the contract. A week after the proposal, the California Public Utilities Commission held a meeting in Stockton to hear from the public regarding the proposed $5.3 billion rate increase that PG&E is proposing over the course of the next three years. A decision is expected in December.

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