Salinas projects $12 million budget hole
City workers feel the pinch from national recession.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Barely healed from fiscal crisis in 2004, Salinas city officials are looking for ways to slash 10 percent from next year’s budget. Dropping sales and property taxes are projected to leave the city with a more than $12 million budget gap next fiscal year, up from an $8.8 million deficit forecasted in September.
Finance Director Tom Kever says sales tax revenue has been declining an average of 4 percent each quarter during the national recession.
In an effort to find budget solutions, city employee unions have been meeting with city administrators. One proposal would close City Hall one day a week and ask employees to work four nine-hour shifts.
City Manager Artie Fields says opening city hall four days a week would save about $30,000 in utility costs. Additionally, higher service fees are on the horizon and, in partnership with the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, the city is asking residents to buy locally to boost sales tax revenues. “It’s really important for the community to shop in Salinas,” Fields says.
Koni Dearman, co-president of the Salinas Municipal Employees Association, says the city should consider laying off its 190 temporary workers and make administrative cuts before turning to the employees.
“They need to set an example,” she says. “They want to make cuts. Well hey, administration should curb their spending.”
The administration has already tightened its belt, Fields says, instituting a hiring freeze on non-public safety positions, holding off on capital projects, and asking department heads to trim costs within their departments, which, Fields says, will save $1.5 million this fiscal year.
City staff will present recommended budget cut to the City Council in February.