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Budget bonus: City reducing non-general fund costs
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Manteca’s drive to rethink day-to-day operations and manpower needs is having an unexpected bonus – cost reductions for enterprise and restricted fund accounts.

The latest department reorganization eliminates three positions, freezes two positions, consolidates two positions, and downgrades as well as reclassifies three positions.

The evaluation of organizational structures allowed departments to consolidate services and positions while minimizing impacts to service levels.

The latest proposed restructuring saves $312,000 citywide including $68,700 in the general fund. The previous restructuring of the finance department and elimination of three positions provided $381,000 in citywide savings and a general fund savings of $120,500. Also, a reorganization of the police department increased manpower on the street while reducing costs $80,000.

The general fund in December was identified as having a potential for an $11.3 million deficit developing during the fiscal year starting July 1. A series of cutbacks, realignments, and simply leaving positions empty has been estimated to reduce that projected deficit enough to require the City Council to come up with another $2 million to $4 million in cuts.

The city’s other  funds – enterprise accounts such as water, sewer and garbage where users cover the costs – to various restricted funds such as the redevelopment agency are not in a deficit situation. By law, those funds cannot be used to balance the general fund.

The direction city leadership was given by the City Council was to scrutinize how the city did business everywhere to see if there were ways of streamlining operations.

They also have not been filling vacancies and have been encouraging general fund employees to apply for vacancies in the enterprise accounts – such as working garbage routes or overseeing day-to-day water and sewer – needs to reduce general fund manpower.

An average city employee once all employment benefits are factored into the equation including benefits and general payroll taxes costs $100,000.

Cross-training is also underway to make sure critical functions can be performed as the city further reduces staffing in the coming months due to retirement.

The staff restructuring staff is proposing to the City Council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., would:

•eliminate the administrative analyst in the Parks and Recreation Department and consolidate responsibilities with the public works administrative analyst.

•eliminate an administrative assistant position in the Public Works Department.

•eliminate an accounting analyst in the finance department. The current employee will be transferred to the position of accounting manager.

•leave a project analyst frozen in the Public Works Department.

•eliminate an accounting assistant in finance.

•reclassify the customer service representative to senior customer service representative.

•reclassify the finance technician in the finance department to the accounting manager in finance.

•re-title the account assistant position in finance to customer service representative.

The city started its budget planning with an estimated $40.7 million in expenses versus $29.4 million in revenues. That would create an $11.3 million gap. It is reduced to a $9.3 million deficit once $2 million in general fund reserves are applied.

So far strategies either in place or being put in place by city leaders to bridge the deficit include:

•$350,000 from landscape maintenance districts that represents what the city could retrieve if city workers instead of private firms maintained landscaping along sound walls.

•$2,316,000 by shooting for 100 percent cost recovery for development related fees including $934,000 for planning, $661,000 for building, $289,000 for public works, $282,000 for parks, and $250,000 for fire.

•$800,000 in savings for non-paid citywide furloughs.

•$625,000 in early retirement.

•$219,000 in reorganizing departments.

•$500,000 by bringing work back in-house that had been contracted out.

•$1,820,000 million in savings from frozen positions including $1.4 million in the police department.

Staff had noted that would leave at least a $2.7 million gap that could be covered possibly by forging another round of pay raises ($800,000) in 2010 and laying off between 18 and 22 municipal workers.

Most of the hits would be taken in the parks and fire departments. Police already have cutback $1.4 million by leaving positions open. City Manager Steve Pinkerton has noted that language in the voter approved Measure M half cent public safety tax requires general fund support of police services not to drop below 2005-06 funding levels.

What additional cuts would mean
Since 85 percent of the general fund budgets are costs related to employee compensation, Finance Director Suzanne Mallory has noted getting the rest of the deficit bridged may mean:

•Adjusting tree maintenance schedules from the current five years to as far between tree work to eight years.

•Closing “low-value” park facilities such as various mini parks that have little or no use by the public.

•Reducing the level of park maintenance.

•Eliminating the tree and shrub replacement program.

•Closing the senior center every other Friday or possibly every Friday.

•Reducing the reserve firefighting budget.

•Reducing daily fire department staffing from 13 to 10.

•Eliminating the fire department’s CPR program.

•Reducing maintenance along the Tidewater Bikeway.

The only way to avoid layoffs – or at least some - would be for employee groups to reopen contracts. Cutting salaries isn’t the only potential issue.

The city’s contribution to Public Employees Retirement System per worker has skyrocketed. Back in the early part of the decade, the city contributed nothing due to the high flying stock market, now it is hovering around 20 percent for many employees  and as high as 33 percent for public safety workers such as police and fire.