The May 7 Grover Beach City Council meeting was a sobering event for city leaders, staff, and residents alike, as city staffers presented the most recent draft of the budget for the 2013 fiscal year.
Even angry residents who spoke out over delays in long-awaited improvements such as basic road maintenance couldn’t help but share their empathy with a council presiding over an $800,000 budget shortfall.
Time and again, city officials reminded residents that the decisions for inevitable cuts were going to be tough.
“This is never easy,” Mayor John Shoals said. “But everybody’s going to have to take a little pain.”
That pain includes the elimination of six administrative positions, including the encouraged early retirement of four full-time and two part-time positions, according to City Manager Robert Perrault. The city is currently negotiating early retirement incentives with those employees in order to avoid layoffs.
The council approved the draft, but noted that they would like to see if they can still afford small contributions to such programs as the county’s housing trust fund. A final budget is set to go before the council in mid-June for adoption.
According to a staff report, the city will be running on $6.8 million in the general fund, which has been squeezed by a roughly 12 percent drop in property tax revenues over the last three years. Sales tax revenues have also taken a similar hit during the economic recession.
In addition, the city is operating on approximately $1 million less this year, thanks to the state pulling its funding for redevelopment agencies. The majority of those funds historically went to pay for infrastructure and housing projects across the city.
On the positive side, however, the city managed to balance a number of its accounts, such as its wastewater fund, and was able to draft the budget without pulling from any of its reserves, which Perrault said will ease the pain in the next budget cycle.
Conspicuously absent from the budget was the possible upcoming consolidation of police services with Arroyo Grande. Perrault said that was left out because they wanted to present as conservative a fiscal view as possible, and that consolidation would have less of a budget impact on Grover Beach as it likely will on Arroyo Grande, should both cities move forward.
“It’s a difficult decision whenever you’re downsizing an organization or government body,” Perrault said. “On the other side of things, we have to be able to live within our means.”