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Riverbank Council Eyes More Budget Cuts
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Riverbank City Council members failed to adopt a final budget on Sept. 13 when councilmember Jesse James White voted against it. But the city will simply continue to run on its preliminary budget that passed on June 28, said City Manager Rich Holmer.

White cast the dissenting vote on the three-person board, commenting the proposed expenditures for many departments "are up when in a recession they should be going the other way."

Mayor Virginia Madueno said the city had already pared the budget expenditures by 10 percent but suggested perhaps the city should go for another five percent in cuts. White wanted to postpone final budget adoption by another two weeks to find those five percent cuts.

Vice Mayor Sandra Benitez said she agreed to consider further cuts but voted with Madueno, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to pass the final budget that night.

The preliminary budget adopted in June anticipates general fund revenues of $6.6 million against expenditure requests of $6.9 million and thus will need to use about $367,000 in reserves, Finance Director Marisela Hernandez noted.

Introducing the final budget at the Sept. 13 session, Holmer said it represents the outcome of negotiations under which two staff bargaining units have agreed to take 12 furlough days a year that represent a 4.5 percent pay cut and will save the city around $160,000.

It also represents new funding requests by various departments. These include an increase of $9,000 to buy new video cameras for the council chambers; $35,000 for a special March election to fill former councilmember Danny Fielder's seat; $26,400 for a new contract with Gilton Solid Waste Management for extra street sweeping; $40,000 for utilities on 11 city water wells; and $35,400 for a new Water Department vehicle.

Staff also had revised general fund revenues based on new information, Holmer said.

These include a decrease of $113,000 in property tax secured revenues. Stanislaus County had inadvertently overpaid the city during the last fiscal year and would underpay this year.

A decrease of $60,000 for traffic violation fines collected by Riverbank Police Services under the municipal code last year, which are now prohibited by Senate Bill 949.

A decrease of $20,000 in SB 813 Supplemental Taxes revenues, a revenue source that had been slowly declining as home sales slow down.

Increases to the general fund include $35,000 in vehicle code fines representing the percentage the city will get as the issuance of citations reverts back to the State.

An increase of $15,000 in the motor vehicle in lieu revenues and of $20,000 in the property tax secured funds based on trends noted over the last few fiscal years.

For the 2010-2011 fiscal year, staff anticipates general fund revenues of $6.4 million representing a decrease of 2.8 percent from the last budget. The anticipated reserve is 11 percent.

As for service levels, one position each in Parks and Code Enforcement and the Assistant Public Works Director post remain frozen. The post of Senior Community Development Specialist will also remain vacant.

The gas tax fund and sewer fund remain of concern to staff, said Holmer. The gas tax fund will require a subsidy of $115,586 from the general fund for the next fiscal year to remain balanced. The sewer fund will have a reserve of about $199,000 or nine percent by June of 2011 but these funds are insufficient to cover expenses for the next fiscal year. Several major projects have been delayed including completion of the sewer system master plan and pipeline repairs at the wastewater treatment plant.