Layoffs, Sports Park Shutdown Called Options to Close I.B. Budget Gap
April 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Hoping to avoid layoffs and a possible shutdown of the new Sports Park, city leaders Wednesday night discussed ways to close a budget gap of at least $777,000 over the next two years.
City Manager Gary Brown asked council members to seek new ways to cut costs and raise revenues ahead of the July 1 start of the fiscal year.
Brown said staff is looking at minimum deficits of $327,000 for fiscal 2012 and $450,000 for fiscal 2013—but indicated those amounts could double if things don’t work out with public safety negotiations.
“Like most governments, a big chunk of our expenses in the range of 70 to 80 percent are in staff,” Brown told the council.
Besides layoffs, he said money-saving options include offering incentives for early retirement or separation and eliminating or reducing staff positions performing redevelopment functions.
Mayor Jim Janney said he said he could not support layoffs at this time. He called the budget goal is a hard target to hit, because it keeps changing and tough decisions are necessary.
“I would support the idea of coming up with an incentive program to see if there are members of the staff that would be willing to move on,” Janney said.
Imperial Beach residents and a local union rep opposed the prospect of pink slips.
David Garcias, president of the Service Employees International Union, encouraged the council to look at some of these costs as smart business people.
He said a large share of the council audience were Sports Park employees concerned about losing their jobs. Garcias urged the council to review fee structures of other cities and look at doing the same in Imperial Beach without eliminating the current structure.
“Sports Park plays a vital role in the community to the kids in the community,” Garcias said. “Shutting it down would cause worse problems than it would solve.”
I.B. resident Stephanie Kinnamon said she is proud of how the council turned the city’s image around, but said closing the budget gap on the “backs of children and seniors is appalling.”
“You do not want to obliterate your community and make it less desirable,” she said. “There are lots of ways to make up these funds, and looking at your list you have plenty of good ideas to make up these losses of funds in the short-term.”
Councilman Ed Spriggs said rather than cutting expenses by whole departments staff needs to talk with all constituents with a specific monetary goal in mind.
“Leave to the people that know the programs the best to do it, and see what their recommendations are,” he said.
Janney said he believed that agenda items seemed misrepresented and the ideas behind staff’s recommendations were not necessarily an all-or-nothing decision.
With Councilwoman Lorie Bragg absent, the council agreed to delay talks on long-term solutions to the April 20 meeting. (Other options are listed in attached PDF from staff report to the council.)
After two hours of discussion and several recommendations from council members, the council directed staff to examine the following proposals.
- Offer early retirement/separation packages for city employees and continue negotiations with city safety services
- Work with all Park and Recreation services with a predetermined cut in expenses and seeing what each program can do to reach that goal.
- Negotiate with Little League officials to take back maintenance of the ball park and possibly charging fees for out-of-town users.
- Continue negotiations to take part in the Big Bay Boom 2012 countywide Fourth of July fireworks but not eliminate the city’s pier portion of the event.
- Look at the possibility of controlling vacation rentals on Seacoast Drive in a designated area, increasing Transient Occupancy Tax revenues.
- Increase parking enforcement, and study the feasibility of adding parking meters.
- Sell advertising space on lifeguard towers, ball field fences and other city facilities.
- Look at temporarily suspending the public relations contract and revamping its long-term goals.
- Hire an agency to boost collection of parking ticket fines.
- Offer city staff the option of taking additional furlough days throughout the year.
City Manager Brown said council’s recommendations his rough estimates of savings is $230,000 to $375,000 and staff will come back to council after reviewing with latest figures and new recommendations.