Modesto council to begin to examine city budget

kvaline@modbee.comMay 24, 2013 

KV MoMayor 1

Kevin Valine/kvaline@modbee.com Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh speaks Saturday (11-3-12) during a town-hall meeting at the Modesto Senior Citizens Center in Modesto, California.

KEVIN VALINE — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
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— The Modesto City Council will start its deliberations today on Mayor Garrad Marsh's budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Marsh's budget focuses on public safety, directing nearly all of the city's expected revenue growth to police and fire.

He proposes increasing the Police Department budget by $896,000 — primarily to keep 11 police officers whose positions had been funded by grants — and $121,000 more for the Modesto Regional Fire Authority.

This would bring public safety spending to $74.2 million, $49.6 million for police and $24.6 million for fire. Additionally, Marsh said last week the Police Department is getting close to filling 10 officer vacancies. The department is allocated 229 officers.

Marsh's budget has no new money to fix streets and sidewalks, to maintain parks, and to trim and keep city trees healthy.

The mayor said last week that unless the city can find more revenue, residents should expect it to tread water for several years.

He has talked several times this year about putting a temporary public safety sales tax on the November ballot to hire more police officers and firefighters. But Marsh last week deflected questions about a public safety tax and instead said residents and the council need to weigh in on Modesto's revenue options.

Here are some highlights from his proposed budget:

• The city's operating budget is estimated at $347 million. That budget includes the general fund — which primarily pays for public safety — and water and waste-water services.

• The general fund shows $104.9 million in revenues, which is $11.8 million less than general fund expenses. Marsh proposes using $9.9 million in one-time money and $1.9 million in cuts to close the gap.

• Marsh said last week that he expects the city's three public golf courses and Modesto Centre Plaza, the city convention center, will require general fund subsidies to balance their books.

• Residents can expect their monthly sewer bills to go up 6 percent starting July 1. The rate increase will be used to pay waste-water debt service costs. Residents can expect their monthly water bills to rise 2.3 percent, in what the mayor calls an "inflationary rate increase."

• The city expects its number of workers to increase from 1,143 to 1,156, with most of the increase — eight employees — in the Public Works Department.

• Two employee groups will start paying the full 7 percent of the employees' contribution toward their pensions starting July 1. The two groups will receive 1.5 percent pay increases. The groups are the Modesto Confidential and Management Association — which represents about 208 employees — and the city's roughly 40 department heads, deputy directors, and top police and fire management. Most of the city's other employee groups are paying the full employee pension contribution.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.


AT A GLANCE

The City Council will hold workshops at 9 a.m. today and Tuesday on Modesto's proposed 2013-14 budget. The workshops will be held in Tenth Street Place's basement chamber, 1010 10th St. There will be a public comment period at all meetings.

• Today's workshop will consist of the mayor's opening remarks, a budget overview and presentations from the city's departments.

• Tuesday's workshop will include more department presentations, responses to the recommendations on an audit report on restructuring city government and the committee's final deliberations.

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