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State hits up city for more money

Rocklin revisits budget after loss of vehicle licensing revenue and property taxes fall
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Rocklin’s budget may be balanced, but not for long. Just weeks after the city council approved a $38.6-million operating budget for the next fiscal year, the state’s new budget is forcing the city to review its plans. Council members thought the city had dodged a bullet when they approved the budget last month, dipping into its reserves by $840,000, but now that number could surge. At issue is the state’s redirection of approximately $130 million in motor vehicle license fees from California cities’ general revenue into Local Law Enforcement Services Account. That measure alone will impact Rocklin’s general fund by $196,067. “Problems the state has created that consequently disrupt local municipalities’ abilities to operate is beyond frustrating,” said council member Scott Yuill. Council member Diana Ruslin believes Sacramento legislators are out of touch with reality. “The state and federal budget has an immense affect on local jurisdictions. State legislation is often based on politics and not economics,” Ruslin said. Compounding the problem is falling property values that continue to cut into the city’s bottom line. The Placer County Assessor has updated Rocklin’s property assessment and overall values decreased 3.79-percent. The city’s adopted budget reflected only a 2.5-percent decrease in property values. And then there is the much publicized statewide closure of redevelopment agencies, of which Rocklin is a part. The state will allow Rocklin to launch a new agency with city staff if they agree to pay a share of its local property taxes. Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said the city will have to decide if they make the demand payments and continue redevelopment activities or just close it down. Closure could result in Rocklin RDA staff layoffs. Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst reported at the July 12 council meeting that he needs time to sort out the options. “We need time to fully evaluate these impacts and any associated impacts imposed by RDA related legislation,” Horst said. The city manager will get that time. The League of California Cities, the California Redevelopment Association and the cities of San Jose and Union City have filed a lawsuit over the decision. In a prepared statement, Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, said cities like Rocklin will suffer from another economic squeeze. “Ransom payments by local agencies will greatly reduce the ability of local agencies to pursue revitalization and job-creation projects,” McKenzie said. The League hopes the lawsuit will show — once and for all — that when California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 they made the state’s scrapping of RDA unconstitutional. Whether the new city budget will include dipping into savings even further or making more cuts to city services or staff remains unclear. The city has already reorganized city departments, eliminated citywide swim lessons, continued furlough Fridays for staff for another year, banned travel and reduced stipends for city council and other commission members by five percent. Last month, council members gave a nod to considering another round of early separation incentives for city workers. To date, there have been $1.18-million in salary changes due to attrition and other cuts. Faced with similar pressures in previous years, city officials have discussed eliminating a K-9 unit, a school resource officer and two firefighter/paramedic positions. “At this point, I am not sure how this will impact my department,” Police Chief Ron Lawrence said. “I am unaware of any cuts facing the police department.” Lawrence has already revised his department’s $12-million budget with $26,368 in salary cuts and an additional $40,000 by changing reserve police officer positions to volunteer jobs. City Manager Rick Horst has not indicated how the city will get out of the latest financial trap set by the state. “Staff will be prepared to make recommendations to the city council in August. I will not speculate prior to our report,” Horst said. Council members are equally tightlipped about possible decisions. “At this point I can not say what the answer will be,” Ruslin said. “The council will have to look at every option before making any decision.”