Every year the Merced City Council sits down to set its goals for the coming year.
Last Friday and Saturday were no different for this council.
In its two day goal-setting meeting, the council members set their main priorities for 2010, most of which are connected to the economy. They differed little from previous years, said several council members.
While each council member held a slightly different take on what the most important issues are that the city faces in 2010, several items rose to the top as most important: the budget, public safety and economic growth.
Public safety, said Councilman John Carlisle, was the top priority in 2009 and will remain so in 2010. Keeping the fire and police departments top notch is always highly important for any city, Carlisle added.
The second priority, which will influence the first and possibly many of the city's other efforts, is financial.
The city faces a projected 5 percent drop in revenue in the coming year, said Mayor Bill Spriggs. The dilemma for Merced, he said, is how to keep services at their current levels without laying off any more employees -- and still cutting the budget.
"So we have to look at ways to cut our expenditures," said Councilman Noah Lor.
The third top priority -- economic development -- may in turn help fill the city's emptying coffers. The more economic activity there is in Merced, the more taxes the city will get.
Economic development includes bringing the high-speed rail maintenance hub to Merced and continuing the G Street underpass project, giving new businesses incentives and maybe reducing development fees, said Carlisle.
Besides these top three priorities, the council also made a list of less vital priorities. They included dealing with the homeless, updating the general plan and coming to an agreement with UC Merced over infrastructure hook-ups with the city, said Spriggs.
The idea of the annual meeting, which brings together City Council members and city staff, said Carlisle, is to give the staff a clear picture of what the council wants. It also aids the budgetary process.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com.