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Police staffing, recreation money a concern at Lodi mid-year budget talks

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 10:32 am

Vice Mayor Larry Hansen is concerned about staffing in the police department and revenue in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department.

Deputy City Manager Jordan Ayers presented the 2013-14 mid-year budget report to the Lodi City Council at its Tuesday morning shirtsleeve session. He reported that revenues are expected to be higher than originally projected.

Ayers also said Tuesday morning that for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends in June, the Lodi Police Department was expecting to use $16.8 million in its budget. However, due to two unexpected retirements and a few position vacancies, the department’s expenditures look to be $237,585 less than anticipated.

The savings were the greater than in the city’s other seven departments, Ayers said.

Hansen expressed concern because when he retired as police chief in 2000, the department was fully staffed. He asked how many officers the department currently had on its roster.

Lt. Todd Patterson said the department currently has 67 full-time officers, and should soon have 71. Four new officers are being vetted through background checks, he said.

“I guess we’re never going to change in terms of how many full-time officers we have,” Hansen said. “In the past, we were allowed to be over our authorized number of officers because of these lapses. Is there something we can do to get ahead of this so we don’t have any more lapses?”

City Manager Rad Bartlam said major factors in why the city can’t do that are a lack of revenue and grant monies.

The city lost the chance to benefit from a hiring grant worth $250,450 in December, as four vacancies were needed to be eligible for the funds. The department had only three vacancies at the time, and the grant expired Dec. 31, 2013.

“We see a fairly steady turnover rate in both the fire and police departments, at least until some of the older folks get through the system,” Bartlam said. “You’re never going to get to 100 percent (staffing levels), especially when it comes to predicting retirements.”

In addition, Bartlam said, police department revenue from citations and false alarm fees is down from previous years.

Hansen also worried about the state of the parks and rec budget.

Ayers said the department is expected to be $481,858 in the red by June for 2013-14 fiscal year. One of the major factors in the department’s deficit is a reduction in rental and aquatic activity fees. The department was originally expected to be $508,866 in the red, but thanks to staff reductions, it has saved $270,537.

Hansen asked what the city is doing to fix the department’s deficit, and how long it would take to get its budget back in the black.

Bartlam said it could take as much as five years.

“The next big step is to look at the department’s strategic plan,” he said. “We’ll take a close look at the programs we’re offering, determine if they really are what the community wants, then look at where our maintenance costs will stand. I think you can get (out of the deficit).”

The department has already taken a proactive approach to solving its budget problem by considering new or increased park rental fees, as well as weighing charging for entrance to Fourth of July at the Lake.

Despite the concerns, Ayers said the upcoming fiscal year looks “relatively decent.”

“I’m not going to jump up and down and say we’re doing great,” he said. “We’re not doing great, but we are doing OK.”

The city will have about $1.4 million more in revenues this year than anticipated last June, reflected by an outside audit conducted last fall.

That audit, conducted by Macias, Gini and O’Connell, LLP, revealed that sales tax would be up by $470,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year, and property tax would be as much as $104,000 more than originally thought.

Ayers said Tuesday the $470,000 estimate for sales tax was $200,000 higher than anticipated, while property tax revenue was $98,000 higher than expected.

Last June, property tax totals of $8,156,500 were projected for the 2013-14 fiscal year, as were $9,657,000 in sales taxes.

Late utility fee payments were also up by $200,000 this year, generating $1.2 million in revenue.

City staff expects the 2013-14 fiscal year general fund balance to be nearly $8.2 million in June, with revenues at $42.8 million, and expenditures at $42.2 million.

Ayers will return to the council in May with a proposed budget for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year.

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at wesb@lodinews.com.

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