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Prudent moves 3 years ago avert financial disaster
Lathrop Mayor Joseph Chaka Santos addresses the crowd at the second annual State of the City address hosted by the Lathrop District Chamber of Commerce. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

LATHROP – The future, at the moment, isn’t too bright for Lathrop. But at least the city is solvent.

“Even though we’re facing some tough economic times, we’re lucky that we had a city council that acted in the best interest of the residents to put us in this financial position,” said Lathrop City Manager Cary Keaton.

Keaton made his remarks during the second annual State of the City Address hosted by the Lathrop District Chamber of Commerce at Lathrop High School Tuesday morning. He outlined how three years ago the council realized after viewing a forecast model that said unless they changed things, by 2011 they’d be completely out of general fund reserves.

In a sense, they’d be broke  as there would be no extra money for anything outside of the operating budget.

Through drastic cutbacks across the board and the implementation of a variety of cost-saving measures, the city worked to get back on track towards not only being in the black, but being able to forecast five years ahead and still have reserves in the bank.

Today Lathrop has more than $7 million in general fund reserves, but being thrifty and saving in every way possible is still practiced.

“Right now we’re counting pencils,” Keaton said with a laugh. “If somebody checks out two pencils at the beginning of the year, they better show us two stubs at the end of the year.”

The way to combat that situation, Keaton said, is to bring business to the community that will help provide jobs and tax revenue for the community. With a major industrial hub already built in the city and a Union Pacific shipping yard that is planning on doubling its current size, Keaton believes that attracting future businesses will only help the growing community.

“We want Lathrop to be a city that’s ‘all about business.’ It’s easy to say, harder to translate into action and not worth much unless you do so,” Keaton said. “It takes tough, steady planning and a hard work ethic to get it done.”

Lathrop Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos, however, used his time at the lectern to focus on togetherness and how he believes that unity should play a vital role in the current local government.

He used his trademark humor and mentioned “skirmishes” in relation to things that go in the city. He also professed that he wasn’t “a perfect man” and took a page from English poet John Donne when he said that “no man is an island” when talking about his position as the mayor of the community.

But he also dug deep when outlining what he’d like to see when it comes to how the council works together towards the common good.

“We need to work together cohesively. I’m not a politician. I’m a businessman. And sometimes I need to mix business and politics,” Santos said. “It’s not about you – it’s about us. It’s not yours. It’s ours. We need to work for both our city and our community to make this great.”