By DENNIS WYATT
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
City leaders blessed a budget for the current fiscal year that balances the general fund in part by shifting the $440,685 cost for staffing the Community Development Department to growth-related fee revenue.
The unanimous vote at a rare Monday morning council meeting avoided the layoff of eight Community Development personnel on Aug. 1 when funding budgeted under the city’s 2011-12 fiscal year spending plan would have run out.
That means pink slips sent last month to the eight will not go into effect.
The council had been scheduled to adopt the budget a week ago but delayed action after receiving a request from citizen Bruce Lownsbery to delay it so he could have more time to examine the document.
Lownsbery appeared at Monday’s meeting and read a prepared statement into the record.
He requested that the council set up a mechanism where people interested in the budget could be notified when it was being discussed. He also suggested that the city switch auditors every seven years since a change in auditing firms and city managers is what led to Stockton being alerted to financial problems that have led to its filing bankruptcy.
Another request was to have budget workshops in the evening when more people can attend than in the afternoon. Lownsbery was among three citizens who attended the June budget workshop. In previous years when budget workshops were conducted at night they had similar citizen participation.
The switch to afternoon meetings were made to avoid occurring any staff overtime since a number of lower level employees that aren’t department managers are in attendance in the event the council has specific questions impacting their areas of expertise.
City staff notes Manteca already complies with California’s public meeting laws. That means anyone who wishes to be notified of meetings can simply file a written request with the City Clerk’s office.
Manteca has used Maze & Associates to audit the city budget and spending for years.
Maze & Associates’ data in annual audit reports presented to the council consistently showed whenever Manteca was spending more that it collected in revenue in any given year.
Budget messages attached to the budgets presented to the council and public also have pointed out in clear language when Manteca had a structured deficit which is essentially spending more in a given year than the city collects.
During City Manager Bob Adams’ tenure, he devoted a part of his budget message to issue a sternly worded passage that warned the council needed to address the fact spending and revenues within fiscal years were out of whack.
Adams also noted the year that the city tapped into $6 million in bonus bucks collected from developers for residential sewer allocation certainty that having the unrestricted funds at the city’s disposal was the only way budgets were being balanced,
And it was spite of those warnings that Adams negotiated the four-year contracts that further extended the structural deficit into 2015.
The council, though, started taking steps three years ago to cut expenses and renegotiate the employee contracts. Employees have since agreed to take an average 22 percent reduction in compensation to put in place a budget strategy that is designed to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015.
Bonus bucks and reserves have allowed Manteca to weather drops in property and sales taxes.
Now the two taxes that account for almost two thirds of the general fund are rebounding.
The general fund that was adopted calls for expenditures of $27,137,075 or a one percent jump over last year. - General fund spending peaked at $36,798,681 in 2007-08.
The overall city budget is $95.7 million- including special funds as well as enterprise accounts funded by users’ fees such as for garbage and water. Among the $95.7 million is an $8.1 million plus public safety endowment set up by the developers of Del Webb at Woodbridge and Atherton Homes that Manteca will take out about $500,000 a year for the next four years to fund a four-man gang suppression unit that was added July 5.