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Budget talks offer gory fiscal details in Lathrop
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LATHROP – It has more cuts and slashes than an R-rated Halloween horror movie.

We’re talking about Lathrop’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2010-11 which was approved by the City Council Monday night after two days of deliberation which started on June 7.

Nobody was spared in the budget cuts. It was an equal-opportunity slash-and-burn reduction of expenses from top to bottom – that includes the city manager and the city council – that transpired during the two days of budget reviews that ended Monday night. The council finished the first part of the review on June 7. One of the departments that completed the review on that first day of combing the budget proposals line by line was police services which suffered an overall decrease of 13.75 percent or $631,399 from the contract that was paid to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s office in 2009-10. The just-approved budget for police for the new fiscal year is $3,775,929 which is significantly down from the total sum of $4,377,328 approved for 2009-10.

Among the long list of cost reductions in each department:

•In Parks and Recreation, the elimination of the parks project manager position resulting in a $125,000 savings in personnel, with other decreases realized by limiting spending to “actual expenses” only, for an overall budget decrease of 4 percent or $42,333 for a total department budget of $973,888 which is down from $1,016,221 in 2009-10.

•In the Neighborhood and Community Services Department, which is a consolidation of three divisions – i.e., code compliance/public nuisance such as weed abatement, animal services, and emergency services, among the cost-cutting steps approved is the purchase of one pair of boots rather than two pairs because of the decrease in code enforcement staffing, plus a 35 percent decrease ($95,816) in Animal Services Division’s personnel from $280,167 in the previous fiscal year to $182,351 for 2010-11 due mainly to the reallocation of the director’s position.

•In the Public Works Department, employee layoffs plus decreases in operation and maintenance in the administration division translates into a budget decrease of $138,187. However, in the new budget that was approved, included is a 5 percent salary increase for the Public Works director “due to working out of class and managing multiple departments.” Public  Works is the city’s largest department with an operating budget of $30 million for the fiscal year starting on July 1. That figure reflects an increase of $9 million from the previous year.

•An overall $39,000 reduction in the city manager’s budget from $780,000 last year to $606,724 for the coming fiscal year.

•A 47 percent overall decrease in Community Development Department’s expenses from that of the previous year, for a total reduction of $883,000. This is mainly due to the loss of 14.75 positions for the new fiscal year.

•The council also approved the rolling back of its contribution to the San Joaquin Partnership to 2005 levels – from the current $15,000 a year to just $5,000. Due the “huge amount of growth” in 2005, the city decided to increase its Partnership contribution to $15, Mayor Kristy Sayles. Since these are leaner times, she suggested that the city’s share be reduced. The Partnership helps “market” the city to developers, an effort that has brought many businesses that are currently operating in the city.

Overall, the proposed operating and capital budgets for the new fiscal year that begins on July is $90 million which covers 94 funded city positions.

The numbers though could still change since other cost reductions are still being under consideration in the final leg of the four-phase plan bridge the $1.2 million deficit.

The council went through two budget approvals. The first resolution was approved with just Mayor Sayles, Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo and Council member Christopher Mateo voting. Council member Sonny Dhaliwal stepped down because of a conflict of interest in one of the budget items, that of the Woodfield Park funding. The park is located near Dhaliwal’s home. He voted in the second resolution which did not include Woodfield Park.