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City of Lodi departments survive fiscal year in fair shape

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 12:00 am

With the exception of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, most city departments are running within their budget projections, according to an update provided to the Lodi City Council this week.

However, covering increased pension contributions in coming years will pose a real challenge, according to city budget managers.

The Lodi City Council met Tuesday for a study session on the nuts and bolts of the 2013-14 budget, following last week’s budget overview.

Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services ended the 2012-13 fiscal year with a $746,000 deficit, but should be able to reduce that by the end of this fiscal year, said Jeff Hood, the department’s director. The budget predicts a final deficit of $708,000 by this time next year.

That deficit grew in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years, when the department went $329,000 and $339,000 over budget, respectively.

“Over a two-year period, the department overspent by a significant amount,” said Hood. “Now we’re trying to dig out of that hole.”

The department is trying to control costs, City Manager Rad Bartlam said. It has made changes to child care programs at Hutchins Street Square, and now has a contract with Lodi Unified School District for afterschool programs. But the city opened Roget and DeBenedetti parks this year, which increased costs simply because there’s more ground to cover.

“We’re on the right flight now,” said Bartlam. “It’s going to take some time to get that guy down to zero, but I think it’s possible.”

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services gets most of their money from the general fund, which was $3.5 million this year. The rest comes from park and hall rentals, fees for sports leagues and ticket sales for shows at Hutchins Street Square.

Other city departments are making budget.

Money to run the Lodi Public Library comes almost exclusively from the general city fund, save for about $60,000 a year from grants, donations and book fees.

The Lodi Public Library has $131,000 in unreserved money for this coming year. The department predicts $17,000 less in revenue than last year, but also plans to spend $37,000 less than last year.

Jordan Ayers, deputy city manager, noted that the budget does not include money slated for the library remodel project.

Council members discussed the virtues of running the library through the city versus joining the county library network as a way to save money.

But the county gives libraries even less money than Lodi is giving its library now, said Bartlam.

The transit department, which runs GrapeLine and Dial-A-Ride, has just under $2 million for the coming year in money that isn’t earmarked. These monies come almost entirely from federal funds, including a $1.8 million increase in transit funds last year.

With so much money in the bank and in reserve funds, the transit department has a few new projects on the way.

They include replacing 12 buses, improving bus equipment such as a washing station, and installing new fare boxes on each bus, for a total of $2.5 million.

The budget for street repairs includes $5 million that isn’t earmarked for a specific project. Money coming in this year is expected to be $577,000 more than last year, but spending will increase by $926,000.

Money for street repairs comes from a combination of federal and state money gathered through taxes on gas.

That money goes to street fixer-upper projects such as maintenance on sidewalks, street surfaces and traffic lights. Public Works will also make dramatic repairs to Ham Lane between Lodi Avenue and Turner Road, and enhance Sacramento Street.

The community development department manages city planning and building, along with neighborhood services, with money gathered through building permits and planning fees. They have $676,000 in their budget for the upcoming year. The department has $8,200 more coming in this year than last year, but expenditures will also rise by $6,600.

Ayers said there were no surprises when the revenues and expenses were tallied up for the last year.

“The only wild card here is the CalPERS increases,” he said. The city’s contributions to employees’ retirement fund will increase sharply in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Right now, the city pays 31 percent of public safety employees’ salary toward retirement, and 14 percent for workers in other departments.

In two years, that jumps to 36 percent and 16 percent, respectively. It brings the city’s retirement contributions to $8.7 million a year, an increase of $1.6 million.

It is not yet clear in prospective budgets where that money will come from.

Council members felt good about city finances after Ayer’s talk.

“I’m very pleased with these results. Last year, I thought that at this point things would be much worse than they are now,” said Mayor Alan Nakanishi.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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