As Paso Robles continues to wade through budget cuts to prepare for a projected total revenue shortfall of $6.1 million through 2015, the City Council voted Tuesday night to cut more than $800,000 in annual programming from its budget.
Tuesday’s action is the first such major blow to public services in recent years. The ax fell on a variety of services. Some of them include cutting marketing, closing a city pool and imposing a wage freeze, which must still be negotiated.
“This is going to be one of the toughest decisions we’ll have to make,” said Councilman Fred Strong in front of a huge audience before the council approved the cuts. The council was split on the matter, voting 3-2 in favor, with Mayor Duane Picanco and Strong voting “no.”
Despite 30 percent cuts to staff through attrition over the past three years, Paso Robles continues to experience deficits as sales and property tax revenues decline.
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The lost income has forced the city to cut from its general fund budget, which pays for services such as police, parks and fire.
For example, the city’s general fund budget for fiscal year 2010-11 shows approximately $23.4 million in revenue but $25.4 million in expenses, according to city documents. That’s a deficit of about $1.9 million.
City employees have also agreed to defer pay raises for 27 months. The latest agreement, made in 2010, lasts through June 30.
While the general budget has $10.4 million in reserves, several factors, including an ongoing water lawsuit, put that cushion at risk.
In addition to cuts, the council also approved allowing the city to charge more for facility rentals and class fees. Library late fees may also go up.
A draft of the city’s final 2011-12 budget is set to go before the council by June. The cuts will begin in July as part of the new budget.
Here’s a closer look at cuts the council approved:
Extending a pay freeze by a year with labor approval to save about $500,000.
Closing Centennial Pool and moving some classes to Municipal Pool to save about $112,000 per year.
Reducing marketing contracts 25 percent to save $67,000 per year.
Cutting staff help at community events by half or requiring event organizers to reimburse the city to save $54,000 per year.
Assigning adult and youth sports programs to leagues to save $33,000 per year.
Canceling the Teen Xtreme after-school program for middle school students at Centennial Park to save $30,000 a year.
Transferring the Oak Park after-school program contract to YMCA to save $23,000 per year. The Paso Robles Housing Authority is now in talks with the
YMCA to run the program. An additional $10,000 per year would be saved if the city can sell the program’s facility space to the Housing Authority.
Suspending reimbursement to staff for college classes related to their job to save approximately $20,000 per year.