City administrator presents gloomy general fund report

According to a Fiscal Roadmap Phase II presentation by Mike Wilson, the city of Susanville’s administrative officer, the city’s financial future looks mighty grim, and he recommends the city respond with across the board cuts.

Wilson proposes a hiring freeze effective Jan 1 2020 in which “all city recruitments and hiring will be frozen.”                  Departments with vacancies could ask the city administrator to unfreeze the vacancy, but the final decision would be made by the city council.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, all office supply expenses must be approved by the finance department. All office supplies will be pooled, and an inventory of office supplies shall be completed by Jan. 31, 2020.

Each department head will be responsible to make adjustments to their operation during the first half of the fiscal year, and each department will be responsible for cutting the remaining deficit amount during the second half of the fiscal year.

The police department has a deficit of $287,869. The department expects to eliminate that deficit by reducing overtime, laying off a community services officer and by making reductions in certain police services. The department has already reduced its budget by $267,000 leaving about $20,869 to be cut.

According to Wilson’s presentation, the fire department has saved about $17,476.52 to date and will only approve overtime for “backfilling vacation and sick leave.” The department also will perform in-house maintenance to facilities and vehicles when possible. The fire department’s budget deficit is $126,298, leaving $108,821.42 to still be cut.

Administrative services has saved $84,557 to date through cuts to janitorial services, a reduction in annual membership dues, cutting the project manager position to half time and relocating the city attorney’s office and entering into a new contract with the attorney. The administrative services deficit is $154,744 and $70,187 remains to be cut.

Wilson suggested the council could cut his position to half time, saving about $80,890.

Phase III of the proposed budget update will come March 18 following the election and the Measure N sales tax results.

Wilson proposes if Measure N does not pass the city implement Phase II general fund budget cuts and lay offs and explore contract services for police and fire.


Council comments

Councilmember Brian Wilson said he knew the managers take the cuts to their department personally, and he commended them for their efforts.

“Mike, I think this is a good roadmap forward,” Brian Wilson said, “and as time goes on more details will come forward. As the PERS tidal wave of unfunded liabilities continues over the next several years, we’ll continue to react to it as a city. We do have some money in reserve, which is good and we can spend some of that money, but there’s not even close to enough in reserves to cover the total deficit.”

Councilmember Joe Franco said Wilson’s report was “consistent with the direction we provided to do something due to the financial crisis we’ll be facing.”

Mayor Kevin Stafford said he wished this discussion would have started by in July when the council considered its budget.

He said the city may have to freeze positions and do whatever it can.

“Do we need Direct TV at the golf course?” he asked. “No. There’s a lot of things we can look at. The old clubhouse — how much does that cost us to heat and all that stuff for yoga out there. There’s a lot of things when you look outside the box to cut to try and save staff … I do think we need an immediate freeze on positions.”

Stafford also praised the department heads for their efforts to cut the deficit.

“I think we’ve to the right people in the right positions and I know it’s a couple of years out, but we have time to rectify this, and believe if we put our heads together and work hard, we can get there.”

Councilmember Mendy Schuster thanked the department heads for their hard work.

“The hard work does not go unnoticed,” Schuster said. “It’s a hard time for all of us … I look forward, and I think it will all work out.”

Stafford said he hoped employees who might have their positions cut be given as much notice as possible — maybe even as long as three or four months.

“I know the direction we want to go, but it isn’t good for the taxpayer,” Stafford said.

“We’re all hopeful for now,” Mike Wilson said.