Arroyo Grande City Council mulls budget cuts

Arroyo Grande council members late Tuesday considered several ways to cut an anticipated $830,000 from the city’s 2010-11 budget but delayed eliminating a coordinator position for the before- and after-school Children in Motion program administered at several schools in the South County.

The city faces an additional shortfall of about $300,000 in its current fiscal year budget of about $14.6 million, said Angela Kraetsch, director of financial services.

The council gave its unanimous approval to the recommended strategies to close the deficit and will take another look at the budget — most likely in May.

Councilman Joe Costello was absent.

Kraetsch said the city’s budget is expected to shrink to about $13.8 million next year, in part because of a drop in sales tax revenues and transient occupancy tax, and an increase in unemployment costs.

The city’s budget must be approved by July 1.

Proposed cuts to help close the budget gap include delaying improvements to City Hall and renegotiating labor contracts to delay salary increases to 57 city employees, including 29 police officers and dispatchers. Those two items would save an estimated $575,000.

Other cuts may include making a building maintenance employee a part-time position, reducing the number of police officers classified as senior officers and not filling a full-time engineering position.

However, it was the proposal to cut the child care coordinator position that brought several people to the meeting Tuesday to urge the council to let Carrie Van Beveren keep her job.

Van Beveren also spoke to the council, her voice wavering at times.

“I care about this job and I care about these kids,” said Van Beveren, who has worked for the program for about eight years. “If you don’t want to keep me, you can at least keep the child care position ... because it’s important to these people to have quality day care.”

The program, which started 22 years ago, offers before- and after-school child care at Harloe, Branch and Ocean View elementary schools, and at the Elm Street Community Center.

It has been at least 10 years since the program, which operates on an annual budget of $426,000, has been self-sustaining, said Doug Perrin, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation & Facilities. So far this year, revenue is down by $51,000.

The council decided Tuesday to create a subcommittee to analyze the program costs and look at ways to improve enrollment. For more information about Children in Motion, call 473-5474.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.