City staff to give ways to make Lincoln live within its means

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I can’t think of a better time than now to find new ways to fund our city budget. Even if Measure K, or the proposed utility users’ tax passes in 13 days, that’s just a Band-Aid. We need more, though, to keep our police, fire, libraries and recreation department services. These departments receive General Fund monies. This year’s General Fund deficit is $1.7 million and next year’s deficit is $2.4 million, City Manager Jim Estep has said. Estep, in his column last week (Page A4, Oct. 14 News Messenger, “Manager explains city’s financial future”), said staff will provide ways for the city to “live within its means” at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “Many in the community have asked that the city live within its means,” he wrote. “To that end, staff will be presenting options to the City Council at the Oct. 26 City Council meeting to do just that.” Most of the expenses are with salaries and benefits, Estep wrote: “The two realistic options to reduce expenses to match revenues include further cuts to staff’s salaries and benefits and/or further reductions to the number of staff, which also reduces the associated services that can be provided by the remaining staff.” I’m tired of hearing that we must choose which city services to cut or that we don’t have enough revenue. Let’s plan new ways to increase revenue. For starters, don’t fill the human resources manager position that recently opened. Estep said the department has enough employees “to cover human resources.” Use that money to save a police position the city has said will be cut January if Measure K doesn’t pass. Likewise, don’t fill the assistant director of recreation position recently vacated. Estep said that job’s gross earnings last year were $93,000. That money could also fund police. The city could also get tough with Sierra College and ask for the $110,000 withheld this year to the Twelve Bridges Library. The library is funded by the city of Lincoln, the Western Placer Unified School District and Sierra College. The college owes money to the library because of its own budget woes. Last week, however, The Placer Herald reported that Sierra College spent about $2 million less and revenue was slightly higher than expected this year. Our sister paper reported that $2.5 million in Sierra College pay cuts last year were reversed last week by the Sierra College Board of Trustees. The Twelve Bridges Library deserves to get its allocated funds from Sierra College. City Council candidates’ websites also have other possible revenue solutions. I enjoyed reading solutions from candidate Jeff Greenberg’s website. One solution is to “Create a Public Safety Director eliminating the need for a Police Chief and Fire Chief ... Plus the keeping of two additional police officers can be achieved by the reduction of administrative salaries.” Greenberg is talking a minimum savings of up to $300,000 a year. Another idea I liked from Greenberg’s website is to have library users donate $10 a year for their library cards and to pay rental fees for DVD’s and CDs. If 20,000 of the approximately 26,000 cardholders donated $10, that would easily bring in $200,000. Candidate Stan Nader wrote online, “Competitive city business fees: Keep city permitting and other business fees competitive with those of other cities and actively compete to attract major businesses and employers to Lincoln.” And candidate Reid Barney wrote, “Work to promote and improve the business environment in Lincoln.” While Nader’s and Barney’s statements are right on, I would add that the city should work daily to attract new businesses. That’s in contrast to the city’s economic and redevelopment manager Steve Art’s statement last week that the city’s role in ensuring downtown Lincoln businesses thrive was footing a bill for a $30,000 study and action plan by consultants on revitalizing downtown. The city should target businesses to move here, with the chamber of commerce’s help. We have a handful of empty restaurant sites, including the former Beermann’s, Chilis, Cuppy’s Coffee, Thai Basil, Original Pete’s, Tani Sushi and Pandera. There’s no reason the city is not making it a top priority to recruit for these sites. Tuesday is a good time for residents to start attending City Council 6 p.m. meetings at McBean Park Pavilion. See what ideas city staff and council have for increasing our revenues. Ideas from community members might be just as good, if not better.