Municipal employees are wielding pivotal influence within the final phase of bridging Woodland’s widening budget chasm.

One measure of such influence will be political leverage in ongoing (“meet and confer”) budget negotiations with the city, for its genuine analysis and consideration of several issues of municipal finance that are of concern to employee associations, framed in the posture of — “alternatives” — to employee compensation reductions.

The expenditure-reduction target for attaining a balanced budget has recently been raised to $6.8 million (up $.5 million) – to be slashed from the $45 million budget for fiscal year 2009-10.

A updated budgetary — “contingency plan” — is substantially outlined in the city manager’s latest (May 26) budget-status report, with the pertinent — “contingency” — being the level of municipal cost reduction achievable from the city’s unionized workforce.

In closed session prior to the regular City Council meeting of May 19, Woodland City Manager Mark Deven “informed the group [of five professional, employee associations] that the City needs total compensation reductions of approximately $1.3 million in order to balance the budget for [fiscal year 2009-10] and avoid layoffs and deeper reductions in programs and services.”

“[M]anagement staff is [ ] seeking compensation reductions from the City’s [professional association] bargaining units through the meet and confer process,” relates Deven’s report. “Concessions from the City’s bargaining units in compensation or sharing of benefits will [ ] facilitate significant reductions that could eliminate the involuntary discharge of employees through layoffs and mitigate deeper cuts in programs and services.”

$1.3 million represents about a 7% compensation reduction for city employees, whether accomplished by furloughs, salary decreases and/or lessening of benefits.

“[I]f the City does not receive a commitment from the [union] bargaining units that will achieve savings of approximately $1.3 million then a contingency plan must be implemented. The contingency plan will require the involuntary discharge through layoffs of approximately 13 positions by July 31 and deeper reductions in programs and services in order to achieve the necessary savings.”

___  Beneficial Consequences of Union Concessions  ___

This budgetary — “contingency plan” — within Deven’s report produces considerable negative impacts upon city programs and services.

The Community Development Department would lose four employee positions, including: a building inspector, code enforcement officer and two administrative staff persons, which would “seriously impact the timely processing of development applications, timely inspection of buildings in response to permits and tracking of liability accounts, business license and other development related revenue.”

Loss of the code enforcement officer would totally remove that program, leaving code enforcement efforts to the Police Department. which would prioritize complaints of violations according to degree of “immediate threat to life and safety.”

Both the Planning and Historical Preservation Commissions would suffer an indeterminate removal of staff support.

The Police Department would be required to eliminate its Strategic Operations component (Special Weapons and Tactics, Crisis Negotiation Team, Honor Guard and K-9 Unit) and Graffiti Abatement Program.

Additionally, the Police Department would layoff one regular officer, a sergeant and a police records specialist, which would “seriously impact operations,” including: “response times and tactics for responding to Priority One calls,” as well as, “provid[ing] timely information on warrants associated with suspects [to] regional law enforcement agencies.”

The Fire Department would lose and administrative clerk and its fire-prevention specialist, which “would have a significant impact, [ ] requir[ing] periodic closure of the Fire Administration office” and slashing fire-prevention inspections.

The Library would be required to excise three employees — forcing it to remain open for only 20 hours per week — with huge consequences for its various programs and services.

Economic development efforts would be substantially eliminated, which would “impact all business retention, recruitment and collaboration. Organized recruitment would be curtailed and coordination of development applications, facilitation of programs such as Tax Credits and infrastructure financing to help businesses meet development impact fee obligations would be severely restricted.”

The existing position of economic development manager would be erased, transferring that [senior] staff-person to the “Redevelopment and Housing [program], which would force [the] involuntary layoff” — of the manager of Woodland’s Redevelopment Agency.

Such action would likely side-track valuable, anticipated expansion and progress of Woodland’s redevelopment program — as well as impair its overall economic development efforts — with quite adverse economic and cultural consequences for the City.

___  Unions to Propose Alternatives to Compensation Reductions  ___

Discussions with a variety of reliable sources of pertinent information around city hall have revealed that Woodland’s professional associations will propose an unspecified nature of — “alternatives” — to requested compensation cuts.

These “alternatives” involve some municipal-employee perceptions of prior / current “fiscal mismanagement,” especially related to the city’s community development program, describes one reliable source.

Several reliable sources of relevant information indicate that — factoring in the city’s diligent consideration / analysis / action regarding these suggested “alternatives” — municipal employees are likely to approve a carefully negotiated program to help attain the city’s proposed (perhaps revised) target for compensation reduction, and best resolve the current budget crisis.

The next “meet and confer” occasion, between the city and representatives of professional association employees, is scheduled for June 3, the day after the next regular city council meeting. A closed-session conference of these parties will occur, as well, prior to this council meeting.

___  More Budget Problems Surface  ___

Interestingly, Deven’s report also notes that there is already perceived to be a — $2.7 million budget gap — approaching for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Plus, revised projections of property tax revenue show another $500,000 deficit for the current budget ($6.3 to $6.8 million), which Deven explains will be covered by means of a “combination of additional operational savings and some one-time revenue identified since March 31.”

On top of that — the state may soon raid municipal coffers for a three-year loan (with interest, but no transactional costs) of up to $1.3 million, in order to knit together a state budget.

Deven has placed on the agenda for the city council’s regular meeting of June 2, information about a recently created campaign by the League of California Cities, proposing that cities formally adopt resolutions of severe financial distress, in hopes of staving-off such raids.

The city council has already directed Deven to prepare in a separate (reserve) fund, $1.1 million of the city’s $5 million in reserves, in anticipation of this threat or another exigency.