City passes budget, but waits on union deal
The 2011-12 city budget was passed unanimously with little fanfare Tuesday night, although consequential job cuts may be necessary if ongoing union negotiations do not go as hoped.
The City Council passed a general fund budget that fills a $2 million gap. It is expected that 75 percent will come from both "operational efficiencies" and $1.2 million from annual revenue from a new Google lease of city land. But the final $500,000 could come from job cuts, or if the city's unions agree to it, a $500,000 reduction of the $3.8 million in pay and benefit increases otherwise expected next year.
If the city's unions cannot agree on a way to save all $500,000, up to three jobs may have to be eliminated and hours reduced for two others. Two employees could lose their jobs: an assistant at the Center for Performing Arts and a public safety public outreach coordinator. A vacant position for a community services officer would be eliminated, while the deputy zoning administrator would be reduced to half-time.
A full time deputy fire marshal position would remain filled by a half-time employee, despite the fact that the city would continue to be behind on fire inspections of multi-family housing as a result, said Fire Chief Bradley Wardle.
Interim City Manager Melissa Stevenson Dile said she was hopeful that the negotiations would achieve the $500,000 goal, adding that council gave city staff the power to decide what budget cuts would be necessary if the goal was not met. She said staff would have to choose from a prioritized list of cuts the council approved putting the job cuts at the top of the list.
Utility rates increase
Because of higher costs from the city's water suppliers, water rates will increase by 20 percent this year. And because of some unusual savings with the Palo Alto treatment plant, sewer rates will decrease 5 percent.
Garbage and recycling rates will jump by 6 percent in the new budget, raising the cost of a 32-gallon residential garbage can by $1.15 per month to $20.10. The hike will cover a contractual cost increase with garbage contractor Recology (3.46 percent hike) and the increased cost of using Sunnyvale's SMART station (2.6 percent hike).
In related news, the council approved $150,000 to hire a consultant to put the city's garbage contract up for bid as Recology's contract expires in 2013. In 2003, council members expressed concern that the city's garbage contract had not been up for bid in over 60 years. Recology, previously known as Foothill Disposal, first signed an agreement with Mountain View in 1940 and has had contract extensions ever since.
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