City employees present moves to cut costs

Intra-department task force looks to take bite out of $2 million deficit
By: Jon Brines, Special to The Placer Herald
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Much like city hall is on the edge of a former rock quarry that helped to found the town, the city is sitting on the edge of a big deficit hole where the city’s future depends on its actions. The city of Rocklin is projecting a $2 million budget deficit for this fiscal year with a projected $4.5 million budget deficit for 2010, according to city officials. While mandatory furloughs and layoffs have not been approved or finalized, some employees are taking advantage of voluntary furloughs for a day without pay to help the city out. “It was one of the best days off I’ve had,” said management analyst Colleen Laubinger. “I figured every little bit of savings that the city can realize will help.” Laubinger is not alone in her crusade to save the city money. Last Tuesday, a task force made up of representatives from every department presented a report to the city council on ways they discussed that might help to bridge the fiscal gap. “It is a very thorough study,” said Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia. “This report could generate savings in excess of $2 million.” Although the task force has only discussed proposals, the report suggests streamlining payroll practices and grant writing, cost recovery for capital projects and increasing recreation fees and decreasing city subsidies of special events like the Run Rocklin. “I certainly support having those events pay for themselves, or bear the cost of it,” said Vice Mayor Scott Yuill. “Over time, these costs have gotten away from us.” In January, the city council suspended the Rocklin Jubilee slated for June and saved $134,000 in city expenses, city officials said. John House, Community Services and Facilities supervisor, recommended the city look at making recreation programs cost neutral to the city and in some cases raise fees to have users pay for the program without a city subsidy. Councilmember Brett Storey said he would like the city to discuss the possibility of shutting down one of the two Rocklin Unified School District high school pools to reduce the city’s $148,000 annual cost for maintenance. “Maybe we don’t need both pools right now,” Storey said. ”Maybe it is cheaper to shut one down and force everyone to share. We can’t afford the luxury of what we’ve been doing in years past.” Rocklin Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Brown said he wants to see how that would work. “We need to analyze it,” Brown said. “This is an area we would certainly want to sit down and talk through with the city, should they feel the necessity to not be able to continue supporting that program.” Representing the Rocklin Fire Department, Captain Rick Holmes recommended the city use a mobile fuel truck that would be housed at Station No. 2 to reduce mileage and response times when empty fire engines and trucks travel across town to a central depot to refuel. The trailer costs an estimated $30,000 but a Homeland Security grant could pay for it, Holmes said. “We are leaving parts of our city un-staffed or unmanned for a short amount of time to go fuel,” Holmes said. “There is a time when our response times are increased. It doesn’t have a monetary value but a change should be considered.” When refueling occurs, Lincoln and Roseville fire units back up the area uncovered by the vacating Rocklin unit, city officials said. Officer Dan Ruden from the police department recommended increasing fees on items like fix-it tickets. Ruden also recommended raising fees for fingerprinting and blasting permits. The council will continue to discuss the task force’s ideas and recommendations in its meeting March 24, which will also include three plans to restructure departments to save between $1.25 to $1.7 million and eliminate between city 14 to 18 full-time positions. One of the restructuring plans eliminates the Director of the Administrative Services position currently held by Judy LaPorte who is ironically also the chair of the task force. “It is unsettling,” said LaPorte after discovering she could be responsible for eliminating her own job. Regardless, she said, she is pleased to help find cost-cutting measures for the city and hopes if her job is eliminated, her talents could be used elsewhere in the city. Laubinger explains why LaPorte and other city employees are sacrificing for the city’s welfare. “This is one of the best places I’ve worked,” Laubinger said. “Everyone cooperates, participates and pulls together.”