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Arts facilitator eliminated

Council considers further budget cuts

POSTED June 9, 2009 11:16 p.m.
Evening quickly turned into night at the Turlock City Council meeting on Tuesday, where debate over the proposed budget remained civil — yet contentious — as councilmembers elected to cut the positions of the Arts Facilitator and part-time Fleet Maintenance employees, while shuffling dollars between funds to retain one Building and Safety Division employee, who will solely scan documents.
“Look guys, were going to make painful choices tonight,” Vice Mayor Ted Howze said. “There’s no way around it. We’re going to lay good people off and it stinks.”
The mood remained somber and frustrated as private citizens and city employees alike took to the podium to lobby for city services they held dear. The council, meanwhile, appeared torn at their dais as they struggled to lessen a forecasted $6 million deficit in a budget comprised of 80 percent personnel costs.
Initial budget projections called for the elimination of 23 currently filled positions, in addition to cuts of 14 positions left vacant since the midyear budget review. As of the Journal’s deadline, the council elected to cut two additional positions, while saving one position.
“When each of us does our jobs and does it well this city is safer, more efficient, and more attractive to businesses and residents,” said Lisa McDermott as she lobbied for her position as Arts Facilitator, which was eliminated by council on Tuesday. “… Huge gains have been made that benefit everyone who lives here and I encourage you not to throw that away.”
Councilwoman Amy Bublak reiterated that the elimination of the position of Arts Facilitator was not a vote about funding the reconstruction of the Carnegie Arts Center, which would come from the Redevelopment Agency budget and was not on the agenda Tuesday evening.
The council expects to use an additional $2.6 million of reserves this year to close the budget shortfall, before even beginning to factor in an expected $1 million of expected city revenue withheld by the state, potentially rising labor costs pending current union negotiations, or approximately $234,000 more that could be required to pay for insurance, a cost the city learned about just hours before Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have lots of expenditures and not enough revenue,” Howze said. “That’s the sad state of affairs we’re at.”
Some final council decisions, including adopting the General Fund, Housing Program Services, and Engineering Fund budgets, occurred after our deadline. For full information on the 2009-2010 Turlock budget, please check the Turlock Journal’s Saturday edition.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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