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Budget workshop set to precede City Council meeting

POSTED March 19, 2010 11:25 p.m.
The Turlock City Council hopes to get out in front of an anticipated $4 million budget deficit by starting their meeting an hour early on Tuesday to hold a special budget workshop.
This year’s budget is expected to be among the most challenging in the city’s history, due to declining tax revenues and the city’s already slim workforce.
To bridge last year’s $5.1 million deficit, the City of Turlock cut 10 percent of the city’s workforce, about 40 positions, causing 23 employees to lose their jobs. Those cuts came on top of a February 2009 midyear budget revision which saw a 20 percent city operating budget reduction and a voluntary 5 percent salary reduction by all city unions through 2011.
As nearly 90 percent of the City of Turlock’s budget goes directly to personnel, further employee cuts may be unavoidable.
The City had $20 million in reserves two years ago, but that fund has dwindled to near $12 million as the council has dipped into savings to make ends meet year after year. Plans made a year ago call for the city to spend $2.5 million in reserves, leaving about $1.5 million to cut.
Mayor John Lazar and Councilman Ted Howze have served on a special budget subcommittee over the past year, preparing a set of recommendations for this year’s budget, which will be revealed during Tuesday’s workshop.

Turlock to try for Google’s speedy Web access
The City of Turlock isn’t staging flashy marches or publicity stunts to gain Google’s attention as a test site for the Internet giant’s new super high-speed Internet initiative. But the City is hard at work behind the scenes, preparing a request to be selected for the highly competitive Google Fiber For Communities program.
The Turlock City Council will consider submitting that request at Tuesday’s meeting.
The Google initiative will bring Internet access 100 times faster than most Americans currently have to between 50,000 and 500,000 people in carefully chosen communities across the country. Recipient residents and businesses would have to pay a “competitive” rate for the service, but the sheer speed is expected to be a boon to business economic development and residential service.
According to Google, due to their goal of rapidly implementing the network, the selection process will be based on community support, local resources, weather conditions, and regulatory issues. The availability and speed of existing broadband service will also play into Google’s decision.
The City of Turlock hopes their application’s chances will be boosted by California State University, Stanislaus’ participation. The City is also working with the Business Council and private partners to better demonstrate the value of high-speed Internet to Turlock.
While applications are due March 26, a final selection will involve site visits and meetings with local officials.
 
The Turlock City Council will also consider the following matters on Tuesday:
• A motion to approve the promotion of employees to two Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator II positions and one Senior Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, along with filling one vacant position at the wastewater plant, in accordance with staffing guidelines set by the State Water Resources Control Board.
The move requires council approval, following the cost-saving hiring freeze for fiscal year 2009/2010, but is required to meet state staffing requirements for Class IV Wastewater Treatment Plants. The promotions would cost Turlock an additional $27,290 in 2010/2011.
• A resolution opposing the Stanislaus County Public Facility Fee Study, finding the county to be in breach of a 1987 agreement to share in decisions regarding land use and economic development and to cooperate and participate in the prioritization of street projects. A recent revision in the PFF sees 75 percent of county transportation funding earmarked for projects benefiting the Salida area, while projects such as a planned Taylor Road interchange revision were removed from the funding list.
• A Memorandum of Understanding to enter into a working group to collaborate with the California High Speed Rail Authority. The working group would allow the City to voice issues with the plan, and to better provide input into the train’s route and stations.
• Recognizing Donnelly Park for being named Turlock’s Best Place for Family Activities in the Turlock Journal’s 2009 Readers’ Choice awards.
• The appointment of a representative to the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project Committee, the group pursuing the reuse of treated Turlock and Modesto wastewater to irrigate land in the Del Puerto Irrigation District.
• A report on City Manager Roy Wasden, Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher and Police Chief Gary Hampton’s recent lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.

The Turlock City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting will commence at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, at 156 S. Broadway. The special budget workshop will begin an hour earlier, at 6 p.m., in the same room.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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