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Park staff workload increasing 25%
Manteca crews taking over landscape maintenance districts
Fred Milner, who is one of 15 people on a council-appointed citizen’s budget advisory committee, listens to a staff presentation during Thursday’s meeting. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca’s municipal park crews are increasing their workload 25 percent as part of a strategy for the city to bridge a looming $11.3 million deficit in the fiscal year starting July 1.

The city’s 24 park maintenance workers presently handle 320 acres in 50 parks or 13.3 acres per worker. In June, four more parks will be turned over to the city to take the overall acreage up to 350 acres. Sometime after July 1, the city staff is expected to assume responsibility for upkeep on various landscape maintenance districts that encompass 50 acres.

When those two components are added, the ratio will be 16.7 acres per park maintenance worker.

The city isn’t hiring additional workers. They also will benefit from the fact they can use a chunk of the nearly $1 million assessed on property owners to offset park worker wages. Several of the new parks coming on line also have the cost of their maintenance collapsed in the fees charged homes in specific neighborhoods.

It is a trend the City Council is committed to continue as new neighborhoods are approved so that growth doesn’t burden the general fund. Essentially, new projects in the coming years will have neighborhood park maintenance paid by landscape maintenance districts although anyone is free to use the parks.

Taking over the maintenance of the existing districts plus holding the line on staffing is part of the strategies the city is putting in place that City Manager Steve Pinkerton believes will cover about half of the projected deficit that is anticipated to start building in the next fiscal year starting July 1. That is a projection based on the city continuing spending plans put in place July 1, 2008 and if revenue trends monitored in December continue. Almost immediately after the budget was adopted, the city’s top brass started analyzing vacancies and left them unfilled anticipating a revenue slowdown.

Parks and Recreation accounts for $5.1 million in general fund spending plus another $2.8 million from restricted accounts that aren’t part of the deficit.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Houx has identified $610,000 in potential cost saving moves that could help cover the remaining part of the deficit. They run the gamut from increasing green fees at the golf course and increasing other user fees to downgrading city tree maintenance.