City of Lodi police and fire department employees will likely receive checks for overtime hours they have worked during the last couple of years, which they have banked instead of cashing out.
Starting in July 2009, police and fire unions agreed to bank any overtime up to 480 hours. This helped the city save money in the short-term, city staff said.
"We all recognize the need for overtime," Deputy City Manager Jordan Ayers said. "As a budget-saving measure, they have taken it as time on the books as opposed to cash payments."
But one of the consequences has been an accumulation of hours that has led the city to owing about $600,000 to employees in these departments — $392,000 for police and $208,000 for fire.
On Wednesday, the Lodi City Council approved paying down these amounts to zero with a one-time $1.9 million surplus the city had left over in the General Fund from the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ended last June.
"This unfunded liability has been a concern of mine ever since we decided to do it, and I'm glad we are doing something to make it all go away," Mayor JoAnne Mounce said.
The council also told staff to end the practice in the future, which will have to be approved by the unions during current negotiations.
City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said that based on conversations, he believes it will be a "welcome proposal" for the unions.
"Cash in hand right now is very important to people," Schwabauer said.
City staff asked the council to decide how to spend this one-time money during the mid-year budget discussions. The money came from a $560,000 surplus in revenue and a $1.3 million savings in expenditures during the last fiscal year.
The council also put $500,000 of the surplus toward replacing Fire Station 2, which has had a variety of problems including mold and mice. The council had already included in its current budget $300,000 toward a new station.
City Manager Rad Bartlam said he has talked with architects specializing in fire station design and construction, who estimate it will cost $3 to $3.5 million to build a new station.
Ayers said the city needs to set aside money for either a temporary station or a permanent one, even if the cost is unclear.
"We are not sure what that amount will be, but we want to form an $800,000 pot to work toward a resolution of Fire Station 2," he said.
The council agreed to also use the funds to write off money that the city loaned toward expenses for a potential redevelopment agency that the city has carried for years.
The city expected the money to be repaid when an agency formed, but voters rejected creating an agency in March 2009. Because the state is eliminating the agencies, Ayers said the city has to write off the expenses, which total $643,072.
The final use will be to fund the purchase of property for the police station the city constructed on Elm Street. The city bought the land from the Dean Family Trust to build the station and the agreement has been extended twice. Lodi still owes about $322,000, and the council recommended the city dedicates $138,000 toward these payments.
The one-time money came from a variety of sources, Ayers said. The city received a $200,000 catch-up payment of state motor vehicle in-lieu fees. The state was using the wrong formula for the fees from 2005 to 2010, and an audit eventually caught it.
Another $200,000 also came from agricultural leases near the White Slough wastewater treatment plant. Historically, that money went into the wastewater fund, but three years ago, city staff determined that legally it should actually be going to the General Fund.
The city has also seen a reduction in salary and benefit expenses from vacant positions and a reduction in services and supply costs.