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Revenue rise fuels talk of new Manteca budget initiatives

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POSTED January 29, 2014 1:49 a.m.

The proverbial light — powered by tax revenues — is at the end of the tunnel.

For the first time since the Great Recession started in 2006; Manteca’s elected leaders’ mid-fiscal year budget update won’t focus primarily on dealing with the fallout from declining revenues.

Instead the format for the meeting being organized for next month will shift its main focus to council members discussing how they would like to direct improving municipal revenue whether it is to new initiatives, shoring up existing programs such as public safety, building a bigger budget reserve or adding personnel.

“Our revenues are trending up,” noted City Manager Karen McLaughlin.

In the past few years the mid-year gatherings have focused on project updates as well as how the city is coping with doing more with less. McLaughlin said project updates will be included this year, but the new emphasis after discussing format with Mayor Willie Weatherford will be the council providing direction on how they want new revenue to be applied to city operations.

Also the city’s contracts with its bargaining units expire June 30, 2015. Negotiations are likely to get underway in the coming months.

Every employee group took compensation cuts in excess of 20 percent between actual salary they gave up and what was negotiated in a multi-year deal. The cutbacks allowed the city to balance budgets and set it on a course to eliminate the structured deficit that could happen this fiscal year. A structured deficit exists when expenses in a given year exceeds revenues. The city has balanced the budget in recent years by dipping into the reserves.

Some cities that went to non-paid furloughs to reduce compensation restored hours as their finances improved. Manteca has been on non-paid furloughs every other Friday for the past few years plus a longer period over Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

McLaughlin said council members in the past have had discussions about the direction they wanted the city to go but typically they were general. She is hoping this time around elected leaders use the mid-year meeting to provide specific directions.

As an example, she noted the council in past years has indicated they want to increase the budget reserves. Ideally, the council would give the staff a specific percentage to work toward.

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