The Turlock City Council spent some time on Friday figuring out what issues they would focus on in the upcoming year. After four hours of discussion on what each Council member and Interim City Manager Michael Cooke thought were the most pressing issues, a list of four areas emerged: Financial stability, public safety, infrastructure and communication.
It’s no surprise that financial sustainability was the top of the list for all Council members. The City of Turlock has been struggling with increased expenditures and dwindling reserves over the past couple of years that couldn’t be sustained. In June, the Council adopted a budget that resulted in a drastic tightening of the City’s financial belt with significant impacts on what services are provided to Turlock residents.
All other Council priorities are affected by the City’s ability to remain finically stable.
“We really have to focus on what our core mission is as a city, just until our budget situation changes…At this time, I feel, as your interim city manager, we don’t have enough staff resources to take on any new initiatives. We really have to focus on the basics,” said Cooke.
Under financial stability, the Council members identified a number of focus areas including sustainable staffing, revenue generation ideas and an audit of the city’s assessment districts.
Mayor Amy Bublak has been working on reviewing the tax sharing agreement Turlock has with Stanislaus County and Cooke said that at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Council meeting he would be giving an update from the city’s community fiscal advisory group.
Negotiations with the City’s labor groups is also on the financial stability list. While the Council could not discuss ongoing negotiations, a report released by Transparent California found Turlock had the third highest average employee healthcare costs in the state at $23,933.
Under the focus of public safety, the Council identified not only police and fire coverage, but also pot holes and homelessness issues.
Infrastructure includes road work projects, lighting, the surface water project, sidewalks, transit and walkability.
In October, the City Council adopted a road funding strategy that places the funding priority of 60 percent for residential streets, 20 percent to collector roads and 20 percent to arterial streets. The Council also approved four project areas to be started as soon as possible, which was identified as the upcoming summer season. The Council will be discussing more projects in 2020, as funding comes available.
The last Council priority identified was communications — within City Hall and with the public at large. While the Council agreed a dedicated City of Turlock public information officer would be the most optimal solution to Turlock’s communications issues, budget limitations have the Council seeking other ways to accomplish their goals.
This special strategic planning session was a starting point for the Council as they look at 2020. When the Council next meets to discuss strategic planning, they are expected to have the results of a public opinion poll that was commissioned by the City to find out what likely voters think about Turlock’s quality of life and standard of public services, including voter attitudes towards various revenue measures.
“To have a tool that is concrete and data driven from the people that are in this community is invaluable to our process of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Council member Becky Arellano.
At their first regularly scheduled meeting of 2020, set for Tuesday, the Council is expected to:
- Consider approving the regional surface water supply Phase 3 project design and construction funding agreement;
- Adopt a policy on the use of revenues from cannabis related businesses;
- Receive information regarding the formation of a Community Priorities Advisory Committee; and
- Receive an update on Development Services.
The City Council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway. The meeting is open to the public and available for viewing on the City of Turlock’s YouTube channel.