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City layoffs loom again

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Now that city leaders have been able to see how the state’s new budget will impact Rocklin’s general fund, more cuts and layoffs are back on the table as the city tries to balance the budget, according to City Manager Carlos Urrutia. “There is a real good chance that there are more layoffs down the road,” Urrutia said. The state will now borrow $1.156 million from the city’s property taxes and will have up to three years to pay it back with interest, according to Urrutia. Another hit to the general fund is the $1.7 million the state is set to take in redevelopment funds for fiscal year 2009-10 and $350,000 for FY2010-11. While the state has backed off of raiding the city’s portion of the gas tax, the city will have to wait for the cash seven months longer than usual. “It is a real problem,” Urrutia said. “The money that they take is the money we use for operations.” The city will be able to pay bond payments and meet their affordable housing obligations, Urrutia said. “We will still be able to transfer money to other taxing agencies as required by law, but there is nothing left,” he said. The city originally estimated about $44.5 million in general fund revenues FY2008-09, now with the economy and the state borrowing, it is closer to $33 million. “We haven’t hit bottom yet,” Urrutia said. The city has drawn on its own cash reserves, saved money with employee furlough Fridays, layoffs and early retirements. They’ve cut where they could on park and building maintenance, Urrutia said. Now the city is at a tipping point where the next round of cuts will be deeper. “At some point you can’t keep those cuts from affecting public safety,” Urrutia said. “Public safety is 60 percent of our budget.” The council will meet at the end of the month to decide if layoffs or even fire brownouts could be used to balance the budget, he said. The city missed an opportunity to save some police positions. The Obama administration helped Sacramento and other police departments rehire laid off officers with the Federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program. Rocklin’s grant request was turned down. “It would have given us back two of our frozen positions,” said Police Chief Mark Siemens. “Right now, we have five frozen positions and we’re likely to freeze the next one that comes open as well.” Urrutia said the city’s policing success was a barrier for those federal funds. Urrutia said he is working with Siemens to keep the officer-citizen ratio to a little more than one officer per 1,000 citizens. Regardless of how the final budget structure is fleshed out, the city’s services, he said, will likely be changed permanently as the days of fast growth are all but over for Rocklin. “My goal is to come out with a plan to run an organization that can do the best it can with resources, but be sustainable,” Urrutia said. “At this point, we’ll become a bare bones organization providing essential services.” Jon Brines can be reached at jonathanbrines@yahoo.com.