LATHROP – Just three years ago Lathrop’s financial outlook was dire.
Unless something drastic was done, the city was going to be operating at a $15 million deficit by 2014. It was a deficit number that would have likely swollen even larger in subsequent years without intervention.
So the council rolled up their sleeves and went to work slashing money anywhere they could find it. They instituted mandatory furlough days. They cut departments down to minimal staffing levels and had the bare bones crew that remained wear multiple hats to keep city business flowing. They eliminated positions.
While the belt-tightening stung, the fruit of that labor was evident Monday night when the council got their mid-year budget report and saw that the forecast for 2014 has them sitting on reserves of nearly $7 million. They’re projected to have just under $6 million in reserves when 2017 rolls around. The reserves include all accounts and not just the stressed general fund that pays for day-to-day municipal services
“To go from a $15 million deficit to $5.8 million in the black is amazing,” Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal said. “That’s a $20 million turnaround. “
And the council has been diligent to make sure those reserves stay intact.
The only time in the last year they’ve dipped into what most cities consider a rainy-day fund for anything significant was to prevent the layoffs of a handful of city employees during the last budget cycle.
Recent discussions regarding the city’s annual July 1 celebration yielded a compromise where reserves will be used up front but replaced by private fundraising done by members of the council to keep the public event alive.
To date this fiscal year revenue is up nearly $750,000 while expenses are down $86,000. A deficit is expected at the end of the year due in large part to $1.7 million that was used to fund a new Economic Development Program.
City staffers are planning to have $6.8 million left in the bank at the end of the year, and expect to be on the road to sustainability – a much different predicament than the one that they faced not long ago.
Local residents are going to be able to reap the benefits in more ways than one.
At Monday’s City Council meeting City Manager Cary Keaten informed the public that the mandatory furloughs every Friday have been lifted, and people can now visit city hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.