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Council thanks unions for their support

City still faces $2.7 million deficit

POSTED September 28, 2010 9:48 p.m.

The Turlock City Council unanimously agreed to citywide union concessions on Tuesday, dropping the city’s deficit by $864,319 to $2.7 million.

“At the end of the day, it lowers our budget deficit,” said City Manager Roy Wasden. “It’s a significant improvement in our fiscal situation.”

The deficit reduction was made possible by Turlock labor unions’ voluntary return to the bargaining table in the face of a $3.6 million deficit in the adopted 2010-2011 Turlock budget. Per a 2009 agreement, when all city bargaining units agreed to an effective 5 percent pay cut through an increased employee contribution to medical insurance or retirement costs, the unions were under no requirement to consider further concessions until June 2011.

“I’m really appreciative to all the city employees,” said City Councilwoman Mary Jackson. “This was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve been through, and it’s very appreciated that we didn’t have to do layoffs and they came back to the table.”

Tuesday’s agreement represents an effective 5 percent or greater reduction in salary and/or benefits for each bargaining unit, in addition to the still-in-place 5 percent cut from 2009. Most bargaining units will employ a combination of reduced city contributions to retiree health care, suspended sellback of vacation and or sick days, elimination of professional development spending, and increased employee contributions to health care costs to reach those savings. The Turlock City Employees Association will also reduce one employee to 32 hours a week, and all members will undergo 16 furlough hours this year.

At the request of Councilman Ted Howze, the Turlock City Council will meet in closed session with the city’s three contract employees – Wasden, City Attorney Phaedra Norton, and Police Chief Gary Hampton – at their Oct. 12 meeting to accept their previously agreed to concessions and finalize cost reductions for those three remaining city employees.

The other major change to Turlock’s budget, included in Tuesday’s agenda item, was a $10,953 increase in the cost of the city’s membership in the Local Agency Formation Commission, the organization which controls city boundaries. Councilwoman Amy Bublak recused herself from voting on the issue, as she sits on the LAFCO board, though the measure won unanimous approval from the remainder of council.

Following Tuesday’s budget changes, the city remains $2.7 million in deficit.  The largest cost remaining to the city is a $600,000 tab for Turlock’s streetlight program, previously funded through now non-existent state transportation funds.

The City of Turlock is continuing to investigate potential funding sources for the city’s streetlights, including grant funding and a possible solution through the Stanislaus County Council of Governments.

The City of Turlock also remains hopeful that the economy will recover, reducing that deficit.

 “I am optimistic, I will continue to be optimistic,” Jackson said.

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

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