City focuses on possible severe cuts

No library could be an option
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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In the face of scare-tactic accusations from some residents, city staff provided potential budget cuts to General Fund departments during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. More than 100 community members in the audience were told several times by Mayor Tom Cosgrove to hold their “applause, yays, nays, boos and hisses” so others with differing views would not “be intimidated” to address the council. City Manager Jim Estep addressed the idea of scare tactics before the presentation’s beginning. “I do know, because I’ve received it in writing, that some people in the community will view this as scare tactics,” Estep said. “The reality is, people have asked us to live within our means.” The city has projected revenues of $11.7 million and expenditures of $13.9 million for the next fiscal year, according to Estep, with a $2.4 million deficit in the General Fund. Since the city is a service organization, Estep said, the city would need to reduce the salaries and benefits of staff “if we’re not going to reduce staff.” Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak presented options for budget reductions in the recreation department. The News Messenger reported Oct. 14 that assistant director of recreation Mandy Walker retired early on Oct. 8. Her salary was $93,000. “One of the important things to remember when talking about recreation programs is with every recreation program, there are revenues associated with each program, so when we cut programs,we are also cutting associated revenue with that program,” Jatczak said. One option is to close the entire recreation department, which Jatczak said could save the General Fun $525,000 by eliminating six full-time positions and 30 seasonal positions. “Another option is to maintain some recreation programs that have a higher cost recovery than other programs,” Jatczak said. This option would save $460,000 and eliminate four full-time and 24 seasonal positions. The third option presented was to only maintain the aquatics program, which eliminates five full- time and 15 seasonal employees, according to Jatczak, with a savings of $470,000. Jatczak said the closure of McBean Pool could result in the city losing a $210,000 grant and closing the community center could result in the loss of an $88,000 grant. Both grants are through the State Department of Recreation, according to Jatczak. Library Director Darla Wegener presented two options for the library. One option was to close both libraries for a savings of $440,000 to the General Fund. The second was only keeping the Carnegie Library open, with a savings of $250,000 from the closure of the Twelve Bridges Library. Wegener said the closure of both libraries would result in the elimination of three full- time and six seasonal positions, as well as impact the 15,000 residents who use programs such as the homework center, computer classes and the early literacy Mother Goose on the Loose program. “I just want to point out that the library last year had 421,000 materials checked out to 28,000 patrons,” Wegener said. She said the Carnegie Library wouldn’t be able to “handle the volume of the Twelve Bridges Library,” which serves thousands of people a week compared to the hundreds the Carnegie Library sees each week. Wegener said she “is in discussion with Placer County” about contracting library services for Lincoln but “there still would be a cost if we decided to outsource to the county.” The police department suggested the elimination of six positions and the elimination of the K-9 unit, according to Police Chief Joel Neves. That could be a savings of $800,000. “I have looked through the budget line-item by line-item. The only thing left is personnel,” Neves said. “What does this mean for the community? A significant reduction of staff would result in increased response times to calls of all types. It would severely impact to a degree, if there are multiple calls, they couldn’t handle them all at one time.” Neves also said police wouldn’t be able to check on some registered offenders in the community, including gang members, sex offenders and narcotic registrants. “That’s not been looked at in any depth. However, the cost would be predicated on the service level the community of Lincoln wants,” Neves said. “To contract out, it is a contract and residents would still be paying for police.” Fire Chief Dave Whitt gave the options of either eliminating full-time staff positions or “eliminating the funding for call-back staffing,” which could result in a savings of $250,000. The elimination of call-back staffing could result in “a reduction of daily staffing to one three-person company and one two-person company depending on available staffing,” according to a staff report. “It further impacts the city’s ability to comply with OSHA mandated safety laws. It would increase response times, because if we can’t sent the appropriate amount of staffing, we could have to limit the amount of calls we go on,” Whitt said. “If we cut staff to a certain level and don’t backfill personnel, we may end up having one fire engine in the city, which creates a greater reliance on other agencies.” Whitt said the city’s rating with the Insurance Services Office (ISO) is a five, “with one being premium and 10 not being credible. “What five translates to is higher (insurance) premiums to businesses and residents,” Whit said. Nine audience members addressed the City Council with their comments. Gerald Culbertson asked that when salary and benefit cuts are made, the city start at the top. “When you look over here, you have a list of high salary people, and I’d like them to take a few cuts,” Culbertson said. “Leave the little guy alone. From what I’ve heard, they’ve already taken a beating.” Richard Makirdy questioned the timing of the information presented that night. “The City Council and city management have had at least two City Council meetings and one UUT workshop in order to educate, and seven days before the vote on Measure K, determined (it’s) the ‘earliest we’ve ever started on a budget’,” Makirdy said. “I’m not sure why you have to do it seven days before the budget.” City Council members weighed in about the information presented. “I will never support option one (for all four departments) ever, so we will be using some reserves. I will never ask employees to take a 25 percent wage reduction,” Councilwoman Linda Stackpoole said. “I would like a tier reduction, with lower level people taking less in concessions and upper level taking more reductions.” Councilman Paul Joiner said he’d like to preserve police and fire. “There is no way we can continue to cut from fire. We’re already much lower than I’m comfortable with,” Joiner said. “Unfortunately if we have to cut in public safety, it looks like it will have to come from police.” Councilman Spencer Short said he would like to see the city “maintain some level of library service.” Cosgrove said additional cuts to fire “would be catastrophic,” which leaves reductions for police, library and recreation. He doesn’t “advocate the use of reserves.”