Should Rocklin city manager get a raise?

Balanced budgets, cost cutting and efficiencies highlight two years under Horst's administration
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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Current Rocklin city manager contract

$198,000 annual salary

$20,000 annually – deferred compensation

Up to $15,000 – 2010 moving expenses

$750 monthly – car and cellphone allowance

$227,000 – total cash compensation package

Horst pays his own pension costs

Source: city of Rocklin

As the Rocklin City Council gets ready to discuss a possible raise for City Manager Rick Horst, it's pretty clear he has a lot of support.

"Rick Horst has proven he is the right city manager for Rocklin," said Mayor Diana Ruslin. "Rick is a strong leader and team player. His depth of experience and commitment has been extremely impressive."

In 2010, the council announced he was their unanimous choice out of 70 applicants for a job vacated by Carlos Urrutia after 26 years in Rocklin.

According to his four-year employment contract, Horst will be eligible for a raise for the first time this year. Right now he makes $198,000, but his total compensation comes in very near what his predecessor made as a salary. The city gives Horst $1,660 per month in deferred compensation, $750 a month for car and cellphone allowance and the city pays for his annual physical. His management benefit package includes various insurance, vacation, sick leave and management leave. His first year, Horst also got up to $15,000 to help with moving expenses.

If the raise approved by the council, Horst would likely make over $200,000. However, council members declined to publicly discuss plans for his compensation.

Recent increases for other city staff have been varying. Horst helped negotiate a 3.5-percent raise for Rocklin Police Officers Association members, but Police Chief Ron Lawrence garnered a 15 percent raise last fall.

Council member Scott Yuill said he's firmly behind Horst.

"Continuing his employment, in my opinion, is without question," he said. "Any comments regarding compensation, on the other hand, would be inappropriate until council has conducted a formal review."

Horst also gets high praise from two new council members.

"In my view, Rick has been doing an outstanding job with regards to the management of the city and I expect him to continue to do so," Greg Janda said.

Janda and Dave Butler were elected Nov. 6 and were just seated last month.

"From my perspective as a civic leader and new council member, Rick has done a terrific job as city manager these last two years," Butler said. "He’s led a staff-wide effort to manage costs, enhanced the city’s organizational structure and worked to position the city competitively for economic development."

In his first year, Horst and his staff saved nearly $2 million in efficiencies and cost-cutting measures and got the city off deficit spending.

"From the minute he arrived, he hit the ground running,” Ruslin said. “His first priority was the budget and to evaluate every aspect of the city. Rocklin had to make necessary adjustments to be more efficient and effective.”

He started his first year by laying off three Parks and Recreation Department employees and last year eliminated the parks director position and dissolved the department into the Public Services Department. He's cut the fat at the top as well by not replacing two vacant assistant city manager positions. He's reduced fire department overtime, and even the city's inventory of spare parts, saving at least $80,000. He oversaw a voluntary separation program for workers looking to move on that has saved nearly half a million dollars in compensation costs so far.

Horst's relationship with the council hasn't always been rosy – in 2011 Councilmember Peter Hill accused Horst of overstepping his authority in his handling of the voluntary separation program that Horst offered to city employees before acquiring council’s approval. And last year the council amended his employment contract to rein in overzealous staff moves. According to a senior city official, Horst was changing budgeted positions without council approval.

Horst has made progress with business dealings. Last year, at the “State of the City” presentation, Horst said a long-term goal for the city is to create an economic action team, or EAT, a team of people to take action on issues, encourage people to get involved and improve the business climate. This fall he hired Public Affairs and Economic Growth Manager Karen Garner, who previously worked for the city of Roseville. Under Horst and approved by the council, the city changed how Rocklin taxes businesses after recommendations from a task force on the issue.

"The outcome was that significant changes were made so that there is a cap now on the maximum any one company pays," Garner said. "More changes will be coming to further reduce the business license fee structure, likely this spring."

Horst has found new revenue sources for the city that the council heralds as one of his big successes.

"By the direction of council, Ricky and staff have created a handful of revenue streams the city hasn't had before, and are continuing to find more," Yuill said. "They're making great headway for our taxpayers, creating both efficiencies and creating revenue within various programs."

Last year the city approved three new electronic billboards expected to create $100,000 a year in unexpected revenue from Clear Channel Outdoor (advertising). The city also switched animal shelters from an Auburn location to a Rocklin veterinarian who is operating the shelter and collecting fees that are bringing in an estimated $33,000 of unexpected revenue.

Horst was also involved in the lease changes for the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce, which rents out the city-owned train station. They went from a ceremonial $1 rent to now paying $845 a month. The city also remodeled a city building at Johnson-Springview Park and added a paying tenant, Final 9 Sports, for $900 a month with the provision that 10 percent of the shop’s monthly sales and 50 percent of the total registration fees received from group disc golf instructional services go to the city. His staff also began marketing a newly remodeled Rocklin Event Center as a wedding destination. Some nonprofit groups are outraged the city under Horst’s direction wants to charge them for meetings at city buildings, even though they've been exempt for years. The effort is ongoing.

Horst started work in Rocklin on Valentine's Day 2010 after being the city manager of Ocala, Fla. He also held the top job at South Jordan, Utah, and three other cities in Utah and Florida.

Horst holds two master's degrees, one from Brigham Young University and one from Troy State University. He is a credentialed city manager by the International City/County Management Association. Yuill said public talks about Horst's contract could come as early as the council retreat on Jan. 12, a meeting open to the public. It takes place at 9 a.m. in the Emergency Operation Center room at the Rocklin Police headquarters on Rocklin Road.