The City Council will receive a midyear financial report at its last regular meeting of February and the news is mixed. The General Fund balance is up, mainly due to cost cutting measures like reducing work-week for employees and postponing capital improvements.
Among other cost saving measures are the implementation of new fees for false alarms and parking permits, a freeze on hiring and a voluntary retirement program. These measures have all been implemented over the past 6 years.
According to a staff report prepared by Administrative Services Director Ezequiel Vega, areas of continued concerns include overtime for public safety workers, deferred facility and equipment needs and adequately funded reserves.
The overtime issue is especially critical in the fire department where overtime was budgeted to be 6.8 percent of salaries but is coming in at 16.6 percent.
One solution that has been discussed is to dissolve the fire department and contract with CalFire to provide fire protection services to Watsonville. A study presented to the City Council last year states, “the City of Yucaipa, for example, contracts with CalFire and has a similar population size, the same number of response units with the same staffing for paramedics and personnel per shift, and operates 3 fire stations with strong administrative support.” During the 2011/2012 fiscal year Yucaipa paid approximately $3.5 million for fire protection while Watsonville paid $6.3 million.
One of the most troubling trends noted in the report is that while revenues are no longer sliding, they are also not growing while expenditures for things like retirement and health care continue to increase each year.
The city council meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. when the council will review the consent calendar then move into closed session. The council will reconvene in open session at 6:30 p.m. when they will hear the budget report. The meeting will take place in the Council Chambers at Civic Plaza, 275 Main Street, Fourth Floor.
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