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Turlock successes, struggles and plans for the future to top Mayor’s annual address

POSTED February 8, 2011 11:33 p.m.

What was Turlock’s biggest accomplishment in 2010? Surviving the economic downturn relatively intact, according to an advance copy of Turlock Mayor John Lazar’s State of the City speech, to be delivered at 8 a.m. today at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Membership Breakfast.

“After giving the question some consideration and thought, in many (ways) what did not happen to Turlock in this downturn in the economy has constituted some of our biggest successes as a community,” Lazar will say, according to the preview copy of the speech requested by the Turlock Journal.

The speech lauds Turlock’s comparative success in the down economy, noting the city’s approximate 10 percent unemployment rate, compared to the 18 percent Central Valley average. Turlock’s foreclosure rates stayed below 10 percent, unlike neighboring communities with double-digit foreclosures.

And sales tax revenues and property values appear to have stabilized – and even slightly increased—pointing toward a sooner than expected recovery, Lazar will say. Later in the speech, Lazar will discuss the 2011-2012 budget, including his desire to avoid layoffs thanks to those improved revenues and Turlock’s $18 million General Fund reserve.

“It is my hope that with a healthy reserve as well as the early indicators we have seen for modest increases in sales tax, that we can continue budget reductions with planned retirements and normal employment exits,” Lazar is expected to say. “We will continue to seek more efficient service delivery models and resolve the imbalanced revenue and expenditures over time while using our reserve wisely. We recognize that we are in better fiscal shape than many other communities and we have both previous councils as well as competent staff to thanks for setting this course.”

The speech also notes the Turlock Police Department’s enhanced volunteer programs, which have allowed the continuation of services which would otherwise be discontinued due to reduced staffing levels. Lazar is expected to cite the benefits of neighborhood watches in addressing crime problems, and to call for listeners to join in partnering with the police department.

In deference to the business-centric audience, Lazar will pay special attention to the myriad new businesses attracted to Turlock in 2010, ranging from Peninsula Plastics and the Dust Bowl Brewing Tap Room to Wing Stop, a new In-Shape City, and the pending Ten Pin Fun Center bowling alley. He’ll also take time to discuss items on the council’s 2011 agenda of note to business owners – like the Turlock Partnership Incentives Plan, offering a $5,000 fee break to new businesses.

The address goes on to celebrate successes of the past year – the re-paving of Canal Drive, construction of the Carnegie Arts Center, and approval of the Public Safety Facility and the Avena Bella affordable housing project among them. The speech isn’t all roses, though, as Lazar is expected to note Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate enterprise zones and redevelopment agencies statewide, the latter of which funded the Carnegie, the PSF, Avena Bella, and the new artificial turf field for Turlock High’s Joe Debely Stadium last year.

“Needless to say the Turlock Redevelopment Agency has served this community very well and we are opposed to both of these proposals,” Lazar is expected to say.

Chamber CEO Sharon Silva will also deliver a State of the Chamber address, and County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, whose district includes Turlock, will provide an update on the county.

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

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