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Budget Crunch - Council Members Take Pay Cut
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In an effort to share the pain, members of the Riverbank City Council voted unanimously to cut their own pay by 4.6 percent "to send a message," as Mayor Virginia Madueno put it, and indicate their solidarity with city staff and the community in these difficult economic times.

The 4.6 percent figure mirrors the effect of the 2010- 2011 furlough days on city staff's pay and is the approximate figure for cuts that the administration is again seeking in current negotiations for 2011-2012, Finance Director Marisela Hernandez said after the budget session.

Some council members at Thursday's meeting wanted to opt for a deeper cut, maybe 10 percent, but received no support. There was also a proposal to reduce the pay of the Planning Commissioners but this was dropped in favor of later discussion.

Council members currently are paid $350 per month ($400 in the mayor's case) regardless of the number of meetings scheduled. Planning Commission members receive a stipend of $100 per meeting and generally meet only once a month.

Hernandez set up the budget workshops on Tuesday and Thursday last week for council members to voice their opinions and give direction on the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Council feedback will be incorporated in the preliminary budget that will be presented to the council at the June 27 meting.

Summarizing the 2011-2012 operating budget, Hernandez noted the general fund will have a projected reserve as of this July 1 of $986,926; projected revenues for 2011-2012 will be $7,664,360, and appropriations total $7,577,152 for a projected reserve by June 30 of 2012 of $1,074,134. That will put the reserve at 14 percent of the budget and well over the required 10 percent reserve of $766,436.

The requested appropriations by department are $65,000 for city council, $263, 000 for city manager, $615,000 for finance, $80,000 for legal, 330,000 for planning, $0 for building, $156,000 for building maintenance, $726,000 for city clerk, $3,380,000 for police, $214,000 for code compliance, $413,000 for public works, $237,000 for street maintenance, $647,000 for parks, $0 for economic development, $75,000 for contract engineering and $372,000 for recreation.

Input from the Budget Advisory Committee (a group of unpaid volunteer citizens led by Scott McRitchie) was a key factor in development of the budget, said Hernandez. The committee discussed each line item with each department and also made recommendations to city staff and council in the areas of personnel salaries, benefits, line item reductions and transparency in the budget document.

Council took into consideration the committee's recommendations for personnel salaries and benefits and has used them to provide staff with direction as labor contracts negotiations began.

The "transparency" recommendation has had a large impact on the document itself, she added. The committee recommended personnel costs for each employee should be budgeted within their main department so as to see the total salary and benefits for each.

In the past, salaries were allocated to various departments in which an employee worked, such as the city manager's pay and benefits being spread over the general fund, water fund and sewer fund. Now the city manager's costs are budgeted totally within the city manager's account so a member of the public will be able to see the total amount at a glance.

Hernandez noted the budget is balanced and has a healthy reserve.