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City ends year under budget; employees reap benefits

POSTED November 18, 2011 6:09 p.m.

Last year didn’t just go well for the City of Turlock – it blew away even the most optimistic projections.

Though Turlock had planned to operate at a $2.2 million deficit in 2010-2011, the City of Turlock instead came in under budget, actually adding $50,000 to its reserves.

Traditionally, the City of Turlock “lives within its means,” City Manager Roy Wasden said, under-spending the budget by between $300,000 and $500,000. But a savings of this magnitude is nearly unprecedented in the city’s history.

“It’s a real huge endeavor,” Wasden said. “Several things came together to do that.”

When employees retired, those positions were held vacant if at all possible. In positions that had to be filled – say, in water treatment – interested employees were transferred from within, leaving other, less essential jobs vacant.

Those employees left each did their part, Wasden said, cutting corners wherever possible to save money. It was little things like turning out the lights and not letting cars idle, Wasden said, eking out every ounce of usefulness from goods.

“The employees have done an excellent job controlling spending,” Wasden said. “Obviously, they’re all working hard.”

Wasden went on to commend his employees for keeping up a high level of service despite the cost-savings, with parks maintenance and emergency response times still top-notch.

That hard work, coupled with a 2 percent boost in sales taxes and some assorted one-time revenues, tallied up to a positive year on Turlock’s balance sheets.

But it wasn’t just a positive year for the city –  it’s good news for employees too, who will see half of a 9 percent pay cut vanish because of the Turlock’s good finances.

“Nobody's looking at it as a bad thing,” said Turlock City Employees Association President Anthony Orosco.

From Dec. 5 through June 20, 2012, all Turlock employees will see a 4.5 percent boost to their salaries. That translates into a 2.6 percent annual raise, Wasden said, and will cost the City of Turlock about $487,000 from this year’s budget.

The undoing of part of the effective 9 percent pay cut, agreed to by city unions in advance of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, came as part of a previously-negotiated labor contract. Essentially, the Turlock City Council said in negotiations that if Turlock’s finances went better than the dire state expected, employees shouldn’t suffer so large of a pay cut.

While the additional pay comes as good news to city employees, concern still looms over the years to come, with the seemingly interminable recession dragging down city budgets across the country.

“We’re not out of the recession yet,” Orosco said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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