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Lathrop ponders pursing economic development
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LATHROP – Will bringing business to the community be enough of a reason for the City of Lathrop to tap into their general fund reserves?

When the Lathrop City Council approved the budget for the current fiscal year they didn’t have the funding for an Economic Development Director position that commands almost $165,000 a year in salary and benefits.

They’ll decide tonight whether to fund a full-time position charged with implementing the city’s economic development program, overhauling strategic plans that promote development and economic growth and attracting business to the community.

According to the staff report prepared for the council, the move would cost just over $30,000 this fiscal year. The full combination of salary and benefits – if the full-time position, which would fall into the hierarchy as an administrative job that reports to the City Manager, were funded – would carry a price tag of nearly $165,000.

When staff had to come back to the council last June with a balanced budget, all of the positions that were up to be cut – a shortfall of $615,000 was on the books when they started cutting – were spared except for the economic development position.

The council agreed – albeit with a 3-2 vote (Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos and Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo dissented) – to spend $273,000 to save four positions including a planner, an information technology analyst, a code enforcement officer and a legal assistant.

When and how the city will advertise for the position has yet to be determined.

According to the staff report the city could end up sparing the $30,000 and wait until after the start of the next fiscal year if bond issues are not rectified within the proper time frame.

Based on the information contained in the report, an economic development program and a long-term economic development fund have already been started and will be overseen by a director if the council sees fit to hire one.

Just recently the city decided to end the mandatory weekly furlough days after enacting them as a cost-cutting measure.

The economic development department is often seen as a self-sustaining, revenue-generating faction if businesses are in fact coming to town and adding to the overall tax base and revenue generation.