TURLOCK -- Four candidates for two City Council seats tackled issues such as growth, water and crime prevention during a forum hosted by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night at Covenant Village.
Incumbents Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson are running to keep the seats they first won four years ago. They are challenged by Sergio Alvarado and Steven Nascimento.
Several questions they handled from moderator Mike Lynch and some of the few dozen members in the audience centered around the city's budget challenges in difficult economic times.
Alvarado, a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service, said that his priorities for funding are public safety and roads. He said he would consider outsourcing some of the other jobs performed by city staff, "but only as a last resort."
He said he doesn't favor tax increases to pay for any programs. "We need to find that money from other departments," he said.
Bublak said the City Council needs to do a better job handling Turlock's money, noting that she was the lone vote against the budget that was passed this year.
"The last three budgets we had used $4 million (in reserves) over three years," she said. "This time it took $4 million for one year and we added what I consider luxuries a grant writer, a lobbyist and more travel time."
Bublak, like Alvarado and Nascimento, said she is against state Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to raise the California's sales tax to fund higher education.
Nascimento called the city's budget situation "scary."
"It's very clear that the city needs to get back to basics," he said. "We need to have a serious discussion with residents about what our priorities are."
Nascimento, a former city planner in Modesto who now works for state Sen. Anthony Cannella, said he would support outsourcing work in the planning and building departments, at least until business picks up enough to warrant full-time employees.
Jackson said the council considered outsourcing parks and street maintenance, but in the long term it wouldn't save money. She also pointed to Modesto as an example for how outsourcing doesn't work.
"The first year the company does an OK job, but then it sort of gets worse and worse," she said.
She said she is in favor of Proposition 30, because the state has to make an investment in higher education similar to the one made decades ago with the construction of the California State University and University of California systems.
"I'm tired of temporary fixes, just as many of you are," she said. "(Brown) cannot continue to ignore the state budget crisis."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.