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Ripon may trade more vacation for 5% pay cut
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RIPON – City leaders in Ripon are hoping that they’ll be able to agree on a package that will allow them to meet their necessary budget goals without having to eliminate any more positions.

In a meeting Tuesday that was dominated by discussion about the state of the budget, the City Council voted 3-0 – with Councilmen Garry Krebbs and Charlie Gay absent – to instruct staff to set up meetings with bargaining unit representatives from both the Police and Public Works Departments.

Mayor Chuck Winn introduced a conceptual plan that calls for a 5 percent pay cut across the board in order to meet the city’s budget goals, but compensates by giving employees an additional 8 hours of vacation  every month to help offset the loss in pay.

Workers that aren’t represented by a bargaining unit – city employees that fall outside of the police and public works departments – will be offered 10 additional vacation days to compensate for annual raise that they were not awarded back in June of 2008. One of the key elements of the proposal would be temporarily lifting the cap on vacation days to allow for more days to be accrued.

“The council has been very deliberate in regards to making a decision about either cutting salaries or making layoffs like other cities in the area have had to do,” Winn said. “This is just conceptual, but it’s an option that’s on the table.”

According to City Administrator Leon Compton, the additional vacation days being proposed should be able to be exercised without adversely affecting the city’s operations.

And to make sure that the city is going to be able to weather the financial storm both now and in the future, the council will hold a budget workshop prior to next month’s meeting on March 17 to lay out ideas regarding revenue and expenditures, searching for new revenue sources, and making sure that the finalized budget is completed before June 30.

Contingency plans anticipating future state budget reductions will also be something that’s addressed.

But coping with a reduction in the overall sales tax that the city receives as well as a cut in the property taxes could end up being an issue in the future.

While some other cities are expecting to take a much bigger hit from the property tax reductions, Compton said that the majority of the property tax revenue that Ripon takes in goes to the various programs that are funded by the Redevelopment Agency – meaning that they would take the hit but not affect the city’s general fund account.
Winn also talked about localized taxing scenarios that are likely to, starting with the $40 million annually that is needed to annually operate the new San Joaquin County Jail facility that is going to be built in French Camp.

A general sales-tax increase for all California residents, coupled with possible future increases enacted by cities to help collect the money needed to offset expenses, Winn said, could end up sending the sales tax rate as high as 10 percent before everything is all said and done.