• Cost-cutting challenges Pacific Grove’s core services

    Library removed from chopping block — for now

    By Marge Jameson

    Recommending a budget gap “target” of $2.5 million, Director of Management and Budget Jim Becklenberg warns that basic service assumptions in the City of Pacific Grove will be challenged in the coming years. Coming hard on the heels of staffing and cost reductions put in place in recent years, he and his staff are recommending a series of changes in service levels.

    The recommendation was a budget update and he asked City council to direct staff to develop cost-reduction strategies that can be implemented right away. The lack of funds will cause the City to “question the most core things we do,” he said.

    Such strategies will likely be under consideration at the City Council’s August 5, 2009 meeting, and again on August 19.

    The least popular with the citizens present and the Councilmembers was the recommendation to completely eliminate General Fund support for the library in January, 2010, saving the City $400,000. The council chamber was full of library supporters, and most of them indicated support for a targeted parcel tax which, by the time the agenda item came to a vote, led the Council to direct removal of the potential closing of the library from consideration until after a November vote on a parcel tax.

    Strategies include:

    Collaboration with other agencies for police and fire services and explore the use of volunteers. This strategy could include a “new model” for police services, looking for fewer duplications of staffing among area law enforcement agencies. A report on this option is due in December.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $800,000

    Target implementation: 07/01/10

    Reduce street and building maintenance to safety-critical only. Aesthetic concerns such as park and median maintenance, painting and holiday decorations would likely be abandoned.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $250,000

    Target implementation: 11/01/09

    Impact on current fiscal year 2009/10: $100,000

    Reduce customer service at City Hall by doing away with staff dedicated to lunch-hour service, faster counter service in Community Development, and improved correspondence with permit holders.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $175,000

    Target implementation: 11/01/09

    Impact on current fiscal year 2009/10: $90,000

    Reduce in-kind support for community events to $20,000 per year (current level is $40,000). The Special Events Committee would work with event organizers to reduce need for city staff.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $20,000

    Target implementation: 07/01/10

    Recover 100 percent of costs for architectural review services, or totally suspend requirements. Architectural review process and standards are virtually discretionary and could be suspended unless fees were raised to cover the costs.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $80,000

    Target implementation: 11/01/09

    Impact on current fiscal year 2009/10: $50,000

    Increase building and planning fees to recover 75 percent of costs.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $200,000

    Target implementation: 11/01/09

    Impact on current fiscal year 2009/10: $120,000

    Install parking meters on Ocean View between Fountain Avenue and Lovers Point, a move which would require Coastal Commission approval.

    Estimated annual savings/revenue: $75,000

    Target implementation: 07/01/10

    At the same time that he believes the City should assume it will not have any new or increased taxes to reduce the targeted budget gap, Becklenberg has asked the City Council to recommend a series of revenue enhancements that could be considered at the August 5, 2009 City Council meeting.

    Councilmember Lisa Bennett recommended that the City revisit using a volunteer fire department.

    Bill Kampe said he was concerned about reducing maintenance of streets and buildings to “safety only” levels, and challenged everyone to be a part of solutions for the future.

    Vicki Stillwell, Mayor Pro Tem, chaired the meeting. She said that she wants the Budget and Finance committee to refine its questions for a potential bankruptcy attorney and to return to the Council with those refinements as well as firm costs for such a move.

    The report also relayed a recommendation from the Budget and Finance Committee that the City Council should retain a bankruptcy attorney for consultation and to undertake potential litigation. Becklenberg warned that “the way we talk about bankruptcy” will affect the potential of future partnering. “We do have solid options, he said. “Our bond ratings have been strong and we have not dipped into reserves.” The question will be further discussed in August.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 18, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson


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