The fourth round of discussions on possible cuts to the city budget proved fatal to co-ed and adult men’s softball when City Council members made $1.4 million in cuts at the Sept. 3 meeting. Also on the chopping block was Council Member discretionary funds and the sports concession stands. Receiving a trim was the budget for landscape maintenance throughout the city, and travel, operations, training and supplies for some departments. Spread across several departments, Council also chose to freeze seven vacant positions.
The cuts were approved with a 3-2 vote; Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer and Councilman Paul Sandhu had the nay votes.
Farmer told his fellow council members that he had spoke with the department heads, seeking funding to save the softball programs. According to Farmer, he found $23,466 of unused monies in the general fund slated to be used by the Galt Police Department.
Farmer got little traction with the rest of the council.
“I was disappointed that our council majority decided to cut the adult softball programs without any discussion of compromise,” Farmer said after the meeting. “I know making budget decisions is tough and any cut, no matter what it is, will have some impact on someone in some way. However, I always try to protect the recreation activities when possible because they are so important to our community and way of life here in Galt. Although programs like this are not as vital as other services, I know there are saving measures to be found to keep community activities such as this. So this is not over, and I will be working with our Parks & Rec staff to find alternative cost savings and ideas to save this program.”
As it stands, the Parks and Recreation Department appears to be the hardest hit, program wise. With over $286,000 in cuts, the department will see 13 areas take cuts.
Parks & Rec front desk receptionists will have their hours reduced; however, Parks & Rec Director Armando Solis said window hours for the public would not change at this time.
Additional reductions will be in training, landscaping, including trees temporarily going without pruning; a freeze has been put on the recreation coordinator position, and the sports concession stands and adult softball program have been eliminated.
In addition to the cuts, athletic teams that use lights for games and practices will now be required to pay the full cost to the city.
Solis explained his position on the cuts to The Galt Herald.
“I live in Galt, my older son works in Galt and is looking for housing here, my other son and his new wife just bought a house in Galt, which means the decisions we make today and in the future will not just impact our citizens, but my entire family and my grandchildren to come, so I don’t take this process lightly,” Solis said. “I want to make it clear, the decisions that the City Council are making are not easy ones, but ones that have to be made, and I understand why they are making them.”
Solis said, while he understands, he does have concerns about the cuts.
“Our parks and programs are my greatest concerns right now,” Solis said. “Our parks and streetscapes are what many of our citizens hold dear to their hearts. Parks have been maintained at a high standard for so long and now, with the cuts, it is a little embarrassing being the person who is responsible for the maintenance of them. Right now, staff is working to streamline our programs to be more cost effective. I don’t want to lose any more programs.”
Other department cuts
The police department will freeze two vacant officer positions and a vacant dispatcher job to meet its $374,000 cut from its budget.
The Community Development Department will cut its budget $65,666 by freezing a vacant position and reducing travel and supply costs.
Finance will freeze a financial analyst position that is currently vacant and save $112,000 on its budget.
City Council will also cut its budget by eliminating its discretionary funds and decrease community promotion funding. The two cuts add up to $6,000.
The City Clerk’s office will decrease its promotional funding and legal publication funding and supplies for a total cut of $8,500 to its budget.
In administration, the City Manager’s office will cut $37,179, Human Resources $37,638 and Economic Development $15,947. These departments will make reductions by cutting back on travel, operations, training, supplies and services.
The Northeast Lighting and Landscaping District will be cut $65,016 by reducing landscape and tree maintenance. The Westside Lighting and Landscaping will be cut $18,446 and will also reduce maintenance.
Public Works is mandated with cutting $70,000 from its budget, which will mean a vacant position will go unfilled and maintenance on city structures, facility projects and parks projects will be deferred.
While these are the short-term remedies, Haglund and council will explore going to voters with an increase in sales tax and an additional parcel tax. Should council decide to take his recommendations, the voters will have to wait until November 2020 to have their say.
Haglund commented on the budget cuts on his City Manager’s Update.
“The reductions approved by the City Council demonstrate a focused determination on the part of the council to enact broad financial reforms in pursuit of a balanced budget that can be sustained over the long term,” wrote Haglund. “Tuesday’s reductions were the type of reduction that could be unilaterally enacted by the council in the short term to balance the budget immediately, with the recognitions that more significant actions will need to be taken in the mid-term (six to nine months) to establish more lasting budget restructuring. The mid-term effort will focus on both expenditure reductions that require contractual modification between parties and revenue enhancements to bridge the gap between the cost of services and available revenues.”