Oakdale budget would preserve firefighter positions

jholland@modbee.comJune 16, 2013 

    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John
    E-mail: jholland@modbee.com

— The City Council tonight will consider a 2013-14 budget that would maintain three firefighter positions that had been in jeopardy.

The plan calls for $25.2 million in spending, about a third of it in the general fund and the rest for water, sewer, garbage collection and other specific purposes.

In a memo to the council, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said finances are tight but would be much worse without Measure O, a half-percent sales tax increase that Oakdale voters approved for three years ending in March 2015.

"Without Measure O, the city would be facing the very real prospect of bankruptcy and catastrophic cuts to public safety," he wrote.

For the fire staff, Whitemyer had proposed cutting two positions that were filled and one that was vacant. He kept them in the revised budget after hearing from residents who said public safety should be the priority with Measure O income. The city has 14 full-time firefighters.

The budget would leave two police jobs vacant. The city has 19 full-time officers and 10 reserves.

Measure O was approved in 2011 by 55 percent of the voters. The ballot language said the tax increase would "help prevent additional budget cuts and maintain infrastructure and city services, including police and fire protection, senior programs and other general services."

The proposed budget would eliminate the positions of human resource analyst and recreation coordinator and would trim part-time recreation staffing.

Whitemyer said the general fund has an operating deficit of about $1 million and about $10.7 million in debt obligations over the coming years. The latter mostly involve retirement costs and the South Willowood Drive fire station.

The budget is for the year starting July 1.

"If the council selects this new revised budget, the work is far from over," Whitemyer wrote. "The city will continue to look at all aspects of its operations in order to reduce costs and increase revenues."

Tonight's agenda includes:

• A presentation by the Alliance Small Business Development Center on its fiscal 2012-13 accomplishments and its goals for 2013-14.

• Discussion of a new color scheme for a cell phone tower that is disguised as a water tower. AT&T agreed to look at changes after the Oakdale Leader reported on complaints about the lime-green hue on the East A Street structure.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. today in its chamber at 277 N. Second Ave., Oakdale.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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