DOWNEY - The City Council on Tuesday approved a $143.6 million operating budget that includes no cuts to programs or services while avoiding furloughs and employee layoffs.A $2 million deficit was plugged using reserve funds, leaving Downey's reserve levels at approximately $28.7 million after the next fiscal year. The city cut costs by permanently eliminating 34 previously frozen job positions and freezing an additional eight jobs. Two public safety jobs were added, including a firefighter position ($101,953 annually, including benefits) and a police sergeant position ($214,195 annually, with benefits). The police sergeant position is funded entirely with Asset Forfeiture funds. The position of Emergency Services Manager, created after the city's water scare three years ago and currently held by former fire chief Mark Sauter, was downgraded to Emergency Services Coordinator at a total compensation package totaling $57,770, including benefits. Sauter, a contract employee, is scheduled to retire in December. Also downgraded was the Assistant Community Development Director position, which became Community Development Manager at a reduced salary. The Business Development Manager position was eliminated and not replaced. In a PowerPoint presentation to council members, finance director John Michicoff said he expected sales tax revenue to increase 19.8 percent this coming fiscal year, attributable at least partly to "a change in spending habits" and improving health of the national economy. A water rate increase also approved Tuesday is expected to boost water utility funds 31.2%. Most other revenue sources, however, are forecasted to decrease, including an anticipated 5.3 percent drop in property taxes, and slight dips in licenses and permits, interest and rents, property transfer taxes, and golf course revenues. "When money is tight, leisure activities are typically the first to be impacted," Michicoff said. The city's share of federal Community Development Block Grants, used primarily in Downey to support local non-profits, declined 16.4 percent from last year.
********** Published: June 30, 2011 - Volume 11 - Issue 10