Fine-tuning of Woodland’s proposed 2009-2010 budget has been accomplished by City staff, led by City Manager Mark Deven, in advance of City Council consideration and potential adoption at its regular meeting of June 16.

In round numbers, the council must remove $6.8 million from an initial $45 million budget.

However, the key issue of possible compensation reductions for city employees appears to remain — at least formally — unresolved.

$1.3 million in budget reductions by means of: furloughs, salary modifications or revised benefit-sharing, has been requested by city management, which has presented a contingency plan for council use in the event negotiations with city workers are not successful.

Interestingly, in recent correspondence to the Woodland Library Board of Trustees, Library Services Director Sandra Briggs reports that: “In a dramatic act of leadership, City Manager Mark Deven has instructed the Department of Finance to reduce his overall compensation by 7.4% beginning July 1, 2009 through a combination of 5% wage reduction and 2.4% in other compensation (benefits). I propose the comparable reduction for me in my position [  ] to achieve an overall monthly compensation reduction of 7.4%.”

Library trustees have recently approved this request by Briggs, contingent upon Deven successfully engaging with other upper-managerial employees, the prospect of their participation in an equivalent pay cut.

Trustees don’t want to have Briggs — whom several consider already under-compensated — to be the only top staff (besides Deven) to make such an effort to demonstrate equity with other city workers.

It is yet unknown whether additional city managerial staff will participate in such voluntary compensation reduction.

___  Modifications From Latest Council Budget Workshop  ___

Subsequent to the May 26 City Council meeting on budget matters, several “modifications” have been accomplished in response to citizen and council concerns.

A second round of the Golden Handshake retirement-incentive program has produced — “at least ten” — employees for enrollment, according to staff projections. Only three or four such retirements were anticipated, increasing budget savings by $250,000. These funds will be spent to increase the overtime-reserve fund of the Fire Department, from $115,000 to $365,000.

In a recent interview on local National Public Radio affiliate, Capital Public Radio (Please see Yolo Sun Report: Woodland City Manager Interviewed by Capital Public Radio on Budget Impacts to Public Safety), City Manager Mark Deven described that Woodland may well need to substantially increase overtime for understaffed municipal firefighters, in order to cope with emergency exigencies (such as large or multiple fires, or long-duration events, such as some hazardous-material spills).

Two priority allocations of “one-year expense[s]” are made within the Parks and Recreation Department — for preserving the Ballet Folklorico and Boxing programs ($17,000) — as well as — $63,000 “to facilitate the transition of the Senior Center programs and operation of the Community and Senior Center to the remaining staff as part of” —  a restructuring of this Department  — according to the staff report.

Two retiring managerial employees in this department are being retained on a temporary, part-time basis, in order to best support this “transition [and] restructuring.”

However, Hiddelson Pool — which was requested to be open during the upcoming summer — will soon discontinue operation. City staff have determined that it is — “impossible” — to provide pool employees, because of the elevated nature of employee specialization required for this public facility is presently infeasible.

___  Developers Lose City Flexibility on Fee Payments  ___

The Community Development Department will undergo serious budget impacts — including half-day (8 am – 11 am) public-counter hours, “prioritization of development projects and maintenance of project liability accounts[.]”

Several capable clerks who have traditionally been assigned to the community development counter, will be relocated (to Public Works Dept., for example), leaving the building inspectors to accomplish public-counter service in the mornings and inspect buildings in the field during afternoons.

Flexibility for developers — on their impact-fee payment schedules — has suddenly evaporated, with the department now instructed to begin to ensure that developers’ impact-fee payments are — fully up to date — before the city expends its funds for delivery of related services.

Also, developers will face the fresh hurdle of having city planning staff working their projects — on a newly established “priority” basis — using elevated scrutiny and analyses to ensure that projects deemed more beneficial to economic circumstances of the city have a distinct advantage.

Obviously, this new municipal policy resembles turning lemons into lemonade.

It is already in place within the city’s affordable housing program (Please see Yolo Sun Report: City Of Woodland Launches New Affordable Housing Development Process).

___  Leake Room Remains Closed For Non-Library Uses  ___

“Community organizations that have used the Leake Room at no cost[,] have expressed a desire for the space to remain available for reserved use at some level,” describes the staff report.

The Library Board of Trustees recently closed this space to all activities except those within the library’s “core mission.”

The library recently conducted a patron survey, indicating that general public access to the Leake Room was ranked — “near the bottom” — by its patrons, whose relevant use is most often associated with regular library-sponsored programs and activities in this space.

While it’s “a nice amenity,” general public access to the Leake Room is –“incidental to the core mission” — of the library, notes the staff report, concurring with the judgment of the board of trustees.

Cost of such access is the basic problem: $25,000 is required to annually operate this space for general public access ($14,000 for staff, $6000 for utilities and $5000 for janitorial services).

Usage fees would have to be charged ($20 per hour); while, there are — “other alternatives with reasonable fees attached” — explains the staff report. “Many other options [exist], including the Community and Senior Center, where a fee schedule is already in place, because such use is part of that program’s core mission.”

___  Contingency Plan  ___

The contingency plan, activated upon the specific degree of failure related employee negotiations, could result in — “up to 13” — employee-layoffs.

It would result in layoffs of: police (one sergeant, one officer and a records specialist), the fire-prevention specialist and a clerk in the Fire Department, code-enforcement and building-inspection personnel, plus a clerk and an analyst in the Community Development Department.

These employee layoffs would affect existing police services in a minimal manner (5% budget cut), relative to already understaffed circumstances.

Police Strategic Operations (SWAT, K-9 and crisis negotiation) and the Graffiti-Abatement program would also be eliminated under the budget contingency plan.

Layoffs of code-enforcement personnel would result in only high-priority enforcement — with police handling immediate threats to public safety.

Loss of the Fire Department’s clerk and fire-prevention specialist would translate into substantially reduced public-counter service and obstacles to fire inspections.

In addition, Woodland’s Economic Development Office would close, ending all business retention, recruitment and collaboration, plus discontinuing most municipal interface with the Chamber of Commerce and other local and regional business associations.

Library staff would lose three Library Technician positions, leaving only four full-time employees, resulting in a severe slashing of library hours — to only 20 per week.

Library hours are currently 54 per week, but will be reduced to 40 per week on July 1, under the proposed new budget (assuming municipal employees’ compensation reductions).

Investigations by Yolo Sun indicate reasonable optimism around city hall, that negotiations with city employees will eventually be successful in obtaining their cooperation in closing the remaining $1.3 million gap.

City Manager Deven has declared that if such agreement is attained, no employee layoffs will occur for this fiscal year.