City hopes to avoid layoffs

Volunteers help Rocklin through rocky economic times
By: Susan Belknap, Placer Herald Editor
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Rocklin officials are hoping a good dose of foresight and anticipation will help to weather the city through what’s expected to be an extremely tough year ahead. “Even though we didn’t anticipate the economy would be this bad, for the last few years we knew Rocklin was coming to an end of its development stage,” said Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia. “We’ve been putting money aside. We’ve gone from a city of growth to a slower growth city.” Urrutia said beginning in 2002 and 2003, the city began to slow down its expenses and hiring practices even though the economy was booming. “We were working on a re-organizational scheme,” he said. In addition, before the 2008 year, Urrutia said city officials cut $3 million from the city’s $43 million budget. “Those cuts were done across the board,” Urrutia said. “We didn’t lay people off. We just didn’t replace some staff members who left some positions.” Urrutia said the city also decreased its travel expenses and increased some recreation fees. “But our revenues kept getting hit,” Urrutia said. But even with all these measures, Urrutia said that city officials predict $4 million less in revenue that officials anticipated for the 2009 fiscal year that began last July. Because of this lack in revenue, the city has had to dip into its reserves for the 2008-2009 fiscal year to the tune of about $2 million. Urrutia said he anticipates that another dip for the 2009-2010 year will occur if no action is taken. “But I am recommending a plan,” Urrutia said. Urrutia said his plan includes retirement incentives and possible furloughs in an effort to have “everyone share the pain.” Urrutia is also recommending a suspension of the annual Jubilee celebration, that usually takes place in June, for one year. “We hope the average Rocklin citizen will not feel any of these reductions,” he said. “But we might have to close city hall a few days each month, cut back on lawn mowing of city parks and perhaps keep the water parks open for fewer hours. Those are the things citizens will notice.” Urrutia said in his 25 years as city manager, he has never witnessed a situation as tough as this one. Rocklin Mayor Peter Hill said he knows Rocklin citizens want to maintain the quality of life to which they’ve become accustom. “I know we have outstanding employees,” Hill said. “And I know we’re asking a lot of them. I have a feeling our employees will rally and agree to share the pain in an effort to avoid any layoffs.” Urrutia said one way Rocklin will be able to weather the brewing storm is through the help of its many volunteers. More than 100 citizens volunteer for the city’s police department, handling a variety of tasks vital to the operation of the department. Volunteer firefighters also fill a necessary spot for that department as well. Urrutia said although many proposals are on the table, several public improvement plans that have been earmarked by law for certain projects, continue to progress including the Sierra College Boulevard freeway interchange, the safe routes to school project and the connector road between Pacific and Grove streets. “We just can’t give up,” Hill said. “This isn’t panic time,” Urrutia added. “Our standard of living won’t be reduced.”