San Luis Obispo's City Council agrees to cut $3 million from general fund

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved a plan Tuesday night to cut $3 million from the city’s general fund.

The cuts include reduced janitorial services for city facilities, less trimming of city trees and limiting sidewalk pressure washing to higher-profile areas only.

The plan was approved 4-1. Councilwoman Jan Marx dissented over concerns about reductions to training money available to fire personnel.

Capital improvement plans, including embankment work at Bishop and Augusta creeks and a portion of pipe replacement for the city’s storm drains, were also delayed.

The city will save nearly $2 million of the estimated $3 million shortfall by reductions in the city’s capital improvement programs.

Fewer overtime dollars for training public safety officials and replacing paid coaches with volunteers for teen sports will also add to the savings. Several administrative positions will be left vacant, such as a recreation manager, a maintenance worker at Damon-Garcia Sports Fields and an associate planner in the community development department. The proposed reductions also eliminate the job of a weed abatement officer.

An annual shortfall of $3 million in the city’s roughly $54 million annual general fund is expected in the 2011-13 budget. The shortfall is expected to grow to $5 million by 2013-15. That deficit will more than double to $11 million by 2015-16 if the current half-cent sales tax known as Measure Y, which passed in 2006, is not renewed by city voters in 2014.

A “steeper” and “longer” decline than anticipated in sales tax revenue contributed to the $3 million shortfall. Significant increases in the city’s CalPERS retirement obligations beginning in 2012 will also contribute to the expected shortfall.

In February, the council agreed to freeze all hiring, staff training and travel to help reduce the gap between revenue and current spending. That freeze was lifted with the budget adoption Tuesday, but a “chill” will remain, requiring all hires to be approved by the city manager.