• Preliminary budget released

    There were no real surprises on the City’s proposed budget for 2009/10, which was unveiled at the City Council meeting May 20. But there were some new issues.

    Director of Management and Budget Jim Becklenberg revised his estimated revenue loss to $1.5 million in the current year from a previous estimate of $1.3 million. And the failure of California’s budget propositions to meet voter approval in the special election of May 17, 2009 raises the specter of a “grab” from cities by the state.

    Becklenberg estimated the impact on Pacific Grove to be $451,000 this year if the state does raid local coffers. While such a “grab” must be repaid to the cities within three years – with interest – the issue remains clouded in doubts and “what-ifs.”

    Another gloomy prospect is the possibility that there will be no employee concessions on salaries, raises and benefits which could result in protracted negotiations and delays. “We need to do a better job of negotiating salaries,” said Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Vickie Stillwell.

    In so many words. Councilmember Carmelita Garcia said that such concessions are vital to keeping the City afloat, while Councilmember Lisa Bennett was a little more direct: : “Ratchet back salaries 10 percent across the board. That’s it,” she said.

    In his presentation to the Council, Becklenberg told them that there are some issues they cannot avoid discussing: The possibility of closing the library, the possibility of closing the museum, the possibility of closing the Youth Center, and employee layoffs. But he said that his budget recommendations were guided by certain recommendations, which include:

                Building the local economy

                Getting more value from city assets such as the golf course

                Being more aggressive about cost recovery for City services, such as building and planning and special events

                Avoiding layoffs

                Keeping all services and departments in place

                Keeping the library open

                Keeping public safety services at 2008/09 levels.

    One subject that Mayor Dan Cort said must be avoided is that of filing Chapter 9 bankruptcy, despite the insistence of some about broaching the subject. As verified by City Attorney David Laredo, just the mention that the City is looking at it damages the City’s credit rating and makes bonds and TRANs more difficult and expensive; he must disclose the fact that Pacific Grove is even discussing it, let alone taking any action on it, if the subject is taken outside a committee to the Council chambers. Discussion of bankruptcy, Cort said, also affects hiring possibilities at a time when the City is looking for a new city manager and has five vacancies on the police department. He said that Chapter 9 is a policy decision, not a committee one.

    Councilmember Alan Cohen concurred. “Pick your words carefully,” he said. “There are huge ramifications for even talking about Chapter 9.”

    Councilmember Vickie Stillwell said, “Now you’ve opened a door and tomorrow it will be in the paper.”

    While the City’s budget is balanced for the foreseeable future and Chapter 9 is therefore not an option, there remain doubts about the long term, when CalPERS figures come in for 2011/12. Other factors include projections of the economic recession continuing which seriously affects City income, especially in the areas of property taxes and transient occupancy tax income.

    Cohen said that the City needs to examine the fire department agreement with Monterey. He also said he feels that the City needs to streamline the permit process to facilitate new businesses, and to look at zoning rules which preclude franchise operations.

    “Downtown is going to change,” he said.

    Recommended new revenues for this year amounted to $483,000.

    Increase golf revenues            $200,000

    Approve short-term rentals to gain Transient Occupancy Tax dollars            $200,000

    Increase recreation program fees            $40,000

    Service fire apparatus under contract with Monterey            $10,000

    Increase fees for library services            $15,000

    Increase planning fees to cover costs            $10,000

    Increase parking violation fees            $5,000

    Modify golf clubhouse permit to allow dinner service            $2,000

    Amending Pacific Grove’s vacation rental ordinance comes up before the Planning Commission on June 4 and should be back to the City Council in July.

    Any ballot measures which might be proposed would come before voters in November, 2009.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 21, 2009

    Topics: Front PG News, Uncategorized, Marge Ann Jameson


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