Galt City Council members met last Wednesday for a special meeting to discuss the ailing budget and to hear recommendations from department heads on proposed budget cuts to the general fund. No decisions were made at the meeting, as this was the first in a series of special meetings scheduled to tackle excess spending.

The city is facing a structural deficit, which according to interim City Manager Tom Haglund will soar to $4.1 million by the end of this fiscal year.

Recommending Council take action as soon as possible, Haglund laid out a plan of attack, focusing on short-term efforts that would help this fiscal year; mid-term decisions that will help with the next 2-3 years; and long-term revenue enhancements.

“Without additional, long-term revenue sources, the city will continue to face budgetary constraints that will require further cuts on a year over year basis,” Haglund said.

For the Wednesday meeting, department heads were asked to find potential cost elimination by 10 percent from the general fund, with the exception of Parks & Rec and the Lighting and Landscape Districts (LLDs), which were asked for 34 percent and 12 percent cuts, respectively, and to identify the impacts of those cuts. Parks & Rec and the LLDs budgets will be addressed at a July 31 meeting.

Directors were also asked to look for up to 20 percent cuts; however, Haglund said no department was able to come close to that without laying off employees.

To reach a 10 percent reduction for the Police Department, officials needed to find approximately $650,000 to cut. Police officials found $580,000 worth of cuts by freezing three vacant police officer positions, reorganizing the duties of the community service officer position and freezing the vacant dispatch position.

In consequence, the vacant police officer positions would mean two less officers on patrol and one less detective. In addition, patrol sergeants would work 12-hour shifts as they take on additional responsibilities left from the open dispatch position.

The department would also face additional overtime expenses, and some of the community service officer duties would be shifted to cover parking enforcement, taking time from graffiti abatement and making him unavailable for activities such as neighborhood watch meetings, community outreach and events, toy drives and crime prevention activities.

Public Works had a target of $207,000 cuts to make the 10 percent target and hit their mark. Proposed cuts include freezing the vacant facilities maintenance worker position, reallocating staff time, and eliminating facilities maintenance CIP projects, such as roofing, carpets, cabinets and parking lots at various facilities, as well as small parks projects.

Impacts include delays in providing services, project delays resulting in deteriorating infrastructure and overall increased maintenance costs for equipment and facilities.

With the smallest budget, the Community Development Department was asked to cut $95,500 to meet its 10 percent benchmark. Capturing $72,000 worth of cuts, the department director proposed freezing the vacant building official position, reduce operations and maintenance costs, including travel and supplies, and eliminating the planning commission.

According to staff, consequences for those cuts compromises the ability to meet policies and compliance of laws related to the general plan, CEQA activities and documentation, annexations and zoning review and recommendations.

In addition, the proposed cuts will limit the ability to respond to requests from the community, other cities and governmental agencies, as well as city officials and decision makers.

Finance was asked to find $181,000 in cuts. Coming close to this 10 percent goal, the Department of Finance found by freezing the currently vacant positions of a senior financial analyst and an accounting assistant II, would save $172,000.

Impacts include reduced level of customer service for community members, quality would be reduced for deferred projects/tasks, the department would no longer be eligible for CAFR or budget award programs due to reduced quality and detail, limited review and revisions to desk manuals, and cross training and delays in responding to public records requests.

In addition, staff said that they would need to prioritize tasks based on minimum level of acceptability, which would include only an annual financial report, no quarterly reports, no supplemental reports and less detail in supplemental/analytical data for budgets, documentation and the Cities Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

Not to be left out of budget cuts, the city offices were asked for a 10 percent reduction as well. City offices include City Council, the clerk, attorney and treasurer. Shooting for a $75,000 reduction, staff only found $15,000 to eliminate.

Those cuts include eliminating the discretionary funding for each council member, decreasing community promotion funding, decreasing legal publication funding, reducing books and periodicals and eliminating training and travel for the city treasurer.

Impacts from cuts from the city offices include council no longer having funds to donated to organizations or programs, nor purchase thank you gifts for volunteers that serve on committees or commissions.

The City Clerk would no longer be able to provide refreshments, promotional items and gifts for special ceremonies and celebrations, and will decrease the resources for legal publications.

The city attorney will have access to less resource books and periodicals, and the city treasurer would not receive further training.

Administration found $96,000 in cuts, short of its $106,000 10-percent goal. Cuts include reducing travel, training supplies and professional services for economic development, city manager and human resources. In addition, human resources would reduce recruitment advertising and supplies, and eliminate the tuition reimbursement program and other employee incentive programs.

The city manager would also reduce the contingency budget.

Impacts would limit the ability of the economic development manager to be involved in commercial planning, employee bargaining units would need to approve some of the proposed cuts, there could be a decrease in morale, increased risk of unsafe conditions due to reduced training and testing, reduced ability of city manager to respond to the community or council, and reduction of the contingency funds puts the city at risk of being unresponsive to emergencies and unforeseen costs.

Other proposed cuts included the reduced costs related to the new landscape contract, decreased utilities cost through reduction of watering and other energy conservation measures, reduce special events funding, as well as community promotion funding for a savings of $86,000.

Council is slated to meet July 31 to review Parks & Rec and LLDs, with anticipation of final consideration at the Aug. 20 City Council meeting.