Mountain View Voice

News - June 11, 2010

City could pull off a balanced budget

Without union concessions, police would lose four office staff

by Daniel DeBolt

While the "Great Recession" has forced other cities to make painful budget cuts and run large deficits, it appears that Mountain View will be in the unique position of having a balanced city budget next year with few, if any, layoffs.

After numerous City Council meetings on the budget, City Manager Kevin Duggan released what may be the last draft of the 2010-2011 city budget on Monday. It eliminates a $4.6 million general fund deficit, including a $1.6 million deficit carried over from last year.

The council is set to discuss it at meetings on June 15 and June 22.

Without a potential deal to reduce firefighter pay raises, the proposed cuts may result in some layoffs in the police department. The draft budget would increase fees for recreation and other services and reduce the capacity of every city department. But the effects of the cuts will be less "draconian" and less apparent to the public compared to cuts being made in other cities, Duggan said.

"The really good news is we're not talking bout reducing library hours, we're not talking about turning off street lights," Duggan said, calling it a "solidly balanced" budget with no "gimmicks." He attributed the city's budget success to having a balanced budget when the recession began.

The latest draft budget does include some bad news — a recent report from the county tax assessor's office and higher than expected health care costs have increased the projected general fund deficit from $4.3 million to $4.6 million. Meanwhile, unfinished negotiations with the Firefighters Association have led to employee compensation costs being budgeted $500,000 higher than many hoped.

As a result, $800,000 in cuts had to be made to the budget in recent weeks, forcing Duggan to dip into "tier two" of his list of possible budget cuts to eliminate another five positions on top of the 8.5 previously proposed. Those five include a supervising librarian, a community services officer, a tree-trimmer, a parks maintenance worker and a police records specialist. The city will also seek to save $50,000 on its annual PG&E bill and subtract $200,000 from its equipment replacement budget, likely reducing the city's vehicle fleet and the number of "take home" vehicles some employee use.

All of the positions slated for elimination are vacant, except for the police department records specialist, three part-time police assistants and two other positions filled by employees who recently announced retirement plans.

"No one will be laid off effective July 1," Duggan said, because reserve funds would keep the four police department employees on the payroll an additional six months.

Most city employee groups have agreed to go without pay raises next year or have them substantially cut. The city manager, city attorney, city clerk and all department heads have declined merit pay and cost of living adjustments. The Eagles, a mid-level managers union, police and fire managers have agreed to no pay raises next year.

Service Employees International Union Local 715 and a group of employees labeled "confidential/information" and "hourly" technology" will receive cost-of-living adjustments of just over 1 percent of their salaries, and will receive no merit pay. SEIU represented workers will take two unpaid days off in the deal.

The last holdout is the Firefighters Association. President John Miguel has said his union is willing to cut pay raises in order to save the city $1 million over the next two fiscal years, but the lengthiness of negotiations indicate that there are some disagreements, possibly over how much the cuts would really be worth. Last year, firefighters received a cost of living adjustment that raised salaries by 4.5 percent.

An agreement with firefighters may allow the City Council to achieve its goal of subtracting $1 million from the $2.7 million in various union-contract pay raises paid last year. Without it, Duggan plans to fill the $4.6 million gap with the $500,000 in employee compensation cost savings, $1.3 million in "operational efficiencies," (up from $1 million previously proposed) $1.8 million in "expenditure reductions" (up from $1.3 million previously proposed) and $1 million in new city service fee hikes.

Recreation fee hikes in the latest budget have been reduced from $600,000 to $550,000, mostly because swimmers get a break after much outcry about proposed pool fee increases. The Mountain View Masters, a group of adult swimmers who use the Eagle Park pool in the early morning, will have no fee increase after facing a doubling of its $17 monthly membership fee. Meanwhile, the Los Altos Mountain View Aquatics Club, which has substantial youth membership, faces a fee increase from $0 to $44 instead of the $76 previously proposed. Fees for lap swim and aquatic fitness classes will still be increased, but to "the lower end of comparable rates," said a city staff report.

A slew of police department fees worth $221,000 annually were added to the budget. Getting a car out of impound would cost $150 per vehicle instead of the $75 currently charged. Non-residents who want a citation signed off in Mountain View will be charged $25 instead of the $12 charged now. But the largest source, police chief Scott Vermeer has said, are increased revenue are for repeated responses to false alarms at businesses. Those fines get progressively larger until the fifth response costs $500 instead of the $330 currently charged.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

Shame on the Firefighters!

Lots of Mountain View residents have lost their jobs. Some have had their pay CUT, and many more have had no raise in the last two years.

But the firefighters got a 4.5 percent raise last year, and now they will not agree to keeping their pay flat this year?? That is shameful and obscene. Everyone in the community is being asked to share the pain and the firefighters should as well.

Maybe it is time that Mountain View looks to outsourcing fire service - other cities have done this, and if the Mountain View firefighters continue to think that 4.5 percent increase for a 2-year period is not enough, then maybe we should outsource them.


Posted by sue, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

Thank you to the City Manager for another great year and great job of
keeping this city intact compared to other cities.


Posted by Another Concerned Citizen, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I agree, shame on the firefighters for not doing their share. Stop the quibbling and just pass up an annual raise like the other city employees have done.


Posted by Concerned, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I could not agree more with the comments posted. The other bargaining units have made concessions to help balance the budget but the Fire Department thus far refuses to share the load. As a direct result of their refusal several additional City employees will lose their jobs. Does the Fire Department employees really believe that under these economic times they are entitled to a pay raise, especially when other city employees will lose their jobs? Why are the cuts in the Police Department and other Departments when they have already been cut and not the Fire Department, since they are the only ones unwilling to assist the City in these tough economic times? Enough is enough, City leadership and Council members please do not let this continue. I am not sure what options the City Manager has in this matter but all avenues should be explored. I wish someone would explain this to the citizens of Mountain View.


Posted by le dude, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2010 at 4:32 am

"The draft budget would increase fees for recreation and other services."

Read it folks, in black and white.

Hardly sounds like they are pulling anything off other than handing the good citizens of MV another bill.

As far as the MVFD, we are all a bunch of suckers to be continually blackmailed by them while the city government wrings its hands


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 15, 2010 at 9:07 am

Thank you City Council and City Manager. What a great job to keep our city in line next year financially. We do appreciate all the hard work that went into this.

I don't agree with "le dude" at all. The City Council worked hard to increase some fees across many avenues, while reducing where it could.

I also will not go as far as to vilify the Fire Fighters. Nobody here understands what is going on in those negiotiations. Our MVFD do a fantastic job for our city. Outsourcing is certainly NOT the answer. I am confident that the City will continue to work with the Union to finish their negiotiations, and get something that works for everyone.


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