LATHROP – Most people wouldn’t think that home sales in the South County for the last year were very strong.
But in the last 12 months Lathrop grew 3.98 percent to a total of 18,656 residents – one of a handful of good signs that City Manager Cary Keaton included in the introduction to the 2011-12 draft budget released last week.
In addition to new growth numbers, no additional pink slips were handed out after two years of layoffs. The city either eliminated or unfunded the vacant positions to save money in the budget. The city did hire an Economic Development Administrator at a cost of $150,000, and created a Culture and Recreation Administrator position at an annual cost of $92,800 – although with in-house recruitment the city will only end up shelling out an additional $33,000 annually.
The decision in 2009 to adopt a five-year sustainability plan, Keaton wrote, that helped the city achieve $3.9 million in annual cost savings, was a huge benefit to the city and helped provide a sustainable budget. The city still needs to find another $615,000 in annual savings, however.
And while daily customer service requirements are being met with the reduced staff, any further reductions, according to Keaton, would require an elimination of city services because the staff is already operating at a bare bones level for what they’re providing to the public.
Some of the critical issues that Keaton lists include:
•Maintaining financial solvency through property and sales tax revenue, containing the cost of Lathrop Police Services and managing the city’s obligations associated with the South County Surface Water Project.
•Receiving the best possible service from Lathrop Police Services while at the same time finalizing an equitable contract that will benefit both the City of Lathrop and the County of San Joaquin.
•Hiring an Economic Development Administrator to strengthen existing ties with local businesses and reach out to other businesses that might be interested in relocating to Lathrop.
•Continuing to upgrade levees in order to meet stricter legislative guidelines that could lead to building moratoriums if compliance is not met.
•Making sure that development pays its own way as projects move forward in the city.
•Weathering the uncertain California budget and any shortfalls that may come with it – which may necessitate a new round of budget cuts.
The official adoption of the city budget won’t come until the City Council formally adopts the document, which typically doesn’t happen until after July 1 – the official start of the new fiscal calendar. Currently the document is in draft form and minor changes or alterations may occur before it becomes public record.