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Council approves deficit budget; city to find funding for firefighters
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The Turlock City Council unanimously approved a budget for the 2013- 2014 fiscal year with $29.7 million in expenses and $1 million in deficit spending.

Although the approved budget does not include any layoffs, it eliminates four police department positions and means reducing staffing at Fire Station No. 3 to only two personnel due to the exhaustion of overtime funds.

These cuts in public safety were an issue for Council members Amy Bublak and William DeHart.

Bublak said that by reducing staffing at Fire Station No. 3, community members who pay the community facilities district fees in Turlock would not be “getting what they paid for.”

“People are paying for something and getting less,” said Bublak. “You're not actually getting everything that you anticipated.”

Dehart expressed concern about the safety of the city's first responders.

“We see the studies that say two in, two out (in fires), said Dehart. “There is some eminent wisdom there.”

Unlike Bublak and Dehart, Council member Forest White said that although the cuts seem detrimental now, they help prevent future layoffs on a much more massive scale.

White cited the 2008-2009 fiscal budget when the city hired an additional thirteen police and fire personnel, only to have to lay off 21 non safety individuals the following year. 

“My biggest fear is that we hire people and two years from now, or a year from now, we’ll be walking in here and only have one choice, and that’s to lay more people off, ” said White.

White stated that he would be “much happier” looking at replenishing overtime funds as opposed to new hires.

City Manager Roy Wasden said that he would be willing to work with the chiefs of both the police and fire departments in order to move a lump sum of discretionary money into resolving the staff issues.

“I believe the chief and I can work out a way to staff that position for the last weeks of month, said Wadsen. “It would affect the cost but we can certainly figure that out.”

Along with discussing public safety cuts, the council also mentioned the cutting of the Turlock Partnership incentive program, a business incentive program that granted $1,000 to businesses looking to open their doors  in Turlock.

Bublak said the city of Modesto has recently implemented a similar program and that by cutting this program, the city would essentially be “giving up on the competition.”

The budget wasn't all bad news, as it projects a 2.74 percent increase in revenue, mostly due to a 5 percent increase in sales tax and additional revenue from property taxes. This 2.74 percent would translate to roughly $800,000 in additional revenue.

Despite concerns about public safety and business incentive program cuts, the budget was passed without any changes.

“We haven't had a 5-0 budget for a long time,” said Turlock City Mayor John Lazar.