Budget, tech and staffing needs chief concerns at A.G. workshop

Balancing a lean budget with growing technological and staffing needs was the main topic of discussion at a special Arroyo Grande City Council workshop meeting Monday night to determine the city's top priorities for the next two years.

The community workshop was held to help determine what issues the city will focus on over the next two years while balancing what Director of Administrative Services Debbie Malicoat described as a "lean and mean" budget with little room for extra expenditures.

According to Malicoat, though the budget is solid for the current and immediate future fiscal years, if spending and revenues continue as is, the city could in the next 10 years deplete its general fund balance.

If the city wants to designate funds to any new projects or undertakings, she said, it will first have to free up funds from some other area of the general fund or seek outside funding.

City employees spoke before the council during the workshop, listing their own departmental concerns -- ranging from updating the 10-year-old financial system in the city’s administrative office to replacing the aging Elm Street Community Center.

All department heads agreed that overwhelmingly, their biggest concern was replacing outdated technology and hiring more staff to make up for cuts made during the recession.

Police Chief Steven Annibali requested the city look into hiring more IT personnel for the police force due to the growing reliance on technology in the department.

Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Steve Lieberman had similar concerns, though he also requested finding funding for new fire trucks and equipment to replace the department's aging resources, like two 20-year-old fire trucks. (The suggested length of use is between 15 and 20 years, Lieberman said.)

Five Arroyo Grande residents were in attendance at the start of Monday's meeting, though after close to three hours of presentations and questions of the city's department heads, only one remained.

Arroyo Grande last approved a list of its official goals in 2013. At that time, road and sidewalk improvements, remodeling the police station, setting up a city charter planning process, addressing the city's water use and enhancing customer service from city offices were among the top concerns.

City staff will now take the information and concerns from the workshop and draft a resolution for the official city goals, to be approved at a later City Council meeting.