Neighborhood swimming pools, a fire station and tree trimmers are on the chopping block in Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour's proposal to balance the city budget by cutting $10 million in spending.
Ridenour on Monday unveiled his plan for the 2008-09 budget year, which begins July 1. In addition to the cuts, it calls for an additional $3 million in revenue through a mix of fees, including a monthly 75 cent charge that could show up on cable TV bills.
A sharp decline in tax revenue is driving the reductions, although Ridenour says he fears the picture could worsen depending on how the state balances its budget. His proposal calls for $120 million in spending from the city's general fund, which pays for such basics as public safety.
"We've had to ask the hard questions about programs and services and have come to the realization that we cannot be all things to all people," Ridenour said.
Some of the most prominent proposed cuts include:
Residents can weigh in on the mayor's proposal at four hearings next week. The budget is expected to go the council for a vote May 27.
Council can choose other cuts
Some council members have said they wanted to protect police funding for the next budget year.
"As a government agency, keeping the public safe is our ultimate priority, because that is something people can't do in and of themselves," Councilwoman Kristin Olsen said.
Ridenour said he would be open to filling all the positions if council members find other cuts they would prefer.
In addition to the suggested cuts, he's offering $5.8 million in other reductions council members could choose. Those options tend to be more drastic, but they could become necessary if the city's financial outlook continues to worsen.
Councilman Brad Hawn said the choices would be difficult.
"If you look at one thing on its own, you may make a pretty good case that it shouldn't be cut," he said. "But it takes a different importance when you look at them all together."
Ridenour had more sway over the budget than in previous years because of Measure M, the government-reform ballot measure voters approved in February. It gave him more influence over the budget, obliging the city manager to work with the mayor in writing the budget plan.
"We are managing to our revenues, and our revenues are in decline, so our expenses must follow suit," acting City Manager Jim Niskanen said.
The city's overall $650 million budget is not entirely bleak. Modesto's sewer and water funds do not rely on general tax revenue, instead drawing their revenues from user fees. Both are in the black as the city prepares for hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to the two systems.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.