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Manteca leaves 44 positions vacant
Remaining deficit in 2009-10 budget is $2.5M for now
Municipal workers such as Jon Lucas of the building maintenance services have stepped up to take on bigger workloads as the city has left 44 positions vacant as the result of retirements or people leaving to work elsewhere. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca now has 44 less municipal workers delivering city services than were on the job or authorized a year ago.

It’s a 14 percent reduction in staffing aimed at helping Manteca deal with a general fund deficit that had been projected in December to balloon to $11.3 million in the fiscal year starting July 1 if the city didn’t do anything based on revenue and spending trends at the time.

The expected deficit has now been whittled down to $2.5 million. Those 44 positions as well as movements to put in place 100 percent cost recovery of development fees, furloughs, and reorganization of duties among other moves have helped eliminate $8.8 million in general fund expenses.

Now the question is whether that figure of what remains to be cut - $2.5 million - will hold. That is why the city is now moving to a strategy of adopting a continuing resolution to keep the current budget and spending plans in place until as late as September when a budget is expected to be adopted.

That is when they hope to have a firmer handle on property tax reassessments due in July plus sales tax trends. They also will be in a better position to see if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger follows through on his threat to “borrow” another $2 billion in property taxes from local government – including at least $1.2 million from Manteca.

If overall property taxes decrease by more than the 15 percent that City Manager Steve Pinkerton is now assuming or sales tax weakens even further, it would mean a larger deficit and even more cuts that would have to be made.

The governor’s borrowing of more money from local government or even a greater deterioration in property tax receipts virtually guarantees either layoffs or municipal salary cuts or both.

City staff was cautiously optimistic just two weeks ago that they might be able to get through 2009-10 through additional retirements in the coming 14 months if revenue increases or property tax losses weren’t as severe as feared. The governor’s proposal to borrow local property taxes would change that.

“We have not cried wolf,” Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said at the start of Thursday’s budget workshop. “We have not issued pink slips.”

Other cities went straight to layoffs instead of re-examining how they were conducting the public’s business.  The City Council and Pinkerton decided in December they would be better off looking at every aspect of the city’s operations to find ways to cut costs and increase revenues through cost recovery efforts in fees that are charged for specific general fund services immediately instead of waiting.

The end result from freezes and retirements that were the result of a citywide examination of all services resulted in overall city savings of $4,686,505. Of that, $2,975,040 is coming from general fund savings. An additional benefit were cutting costs elsewhere in funds that were not facing a deficit including $714,465 from the water and sewer enterprise accounts as well as $997,000 from restricted funds.

Furloughs – the equivalent of 3.8 percent salary cuts that will go into effect July 1 – will save Manteca $653,345 next fiscal year as well as $81,585 from employment bargaining groups that wanted the cuts spread over a longer period.

The positions that are being left vacant after retirements or workers taking other jobs by department are city clerk, one; finance, six, community development, three; police, 13; fire, two; engineering, six; streets, four; building safety and inspection, one; building maintenance, one; and parks, seven.