LIVINGSTON -- City leaders are facing some tough decisions as they try to balance their 2012-13 fiscal year budget, and layoffs could be in the works.
General fund projections show a $190,000 deficit, and that figure is expected to be largely dealt with this year to prevent future depletion of general fund reserves, which have been exhausted to 30 percent of expenditures from more than 100 percent in 2002.
The city now has about $1.5 million in reserves, which equates to three months of operating expenses for the city, said City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez. He stressed that he doesn't want to dip into those reserves anymore.
City leaders and staff documents point toward layoffs as a major part of adjusting the city's finances.
"Not finding a permanent solution to this ongoing structural operating deficit will continue to deplete the city's fund balance (reserves) to a level where it might jeopardize its operating functions, especially cash flow," according to a city staff report.
That same staff report includes options to relieve the structural deficit, including freezing vacant positions, sharing resources, transferring personnel between departments, outsourcing operations, reducing contract costs, reviewing benefit costs and proposing layoffs.
City documents show that Livingston's revenue has fallen to $4.4 million in 2012 from $5.4 million in 2008. Expenditures have fallen to $5 million in 2012 from $5.5 million in 2008.
During public comments, residents pleaded with the council to scrutinize "every single penny" and chastised the council for a large spike in expenditures from 2011 that overshot revenues by nearly $1 million.
Donna Kenney, community development director for Livingston, also spoke, relaying that "city staff does not support a reorganization or layoffs."
During the meeting, Councilman Gurpal Samra said he was hoping to avoid layoffs and noted that nothing is final and there still is time to look at alternatives.
"If we don't take action, then what?" he added, while later encouraging the public not to put all blame on the current council.
After the meeting, Samra said that while he wants to avoid staff cuts, they could happen.
"Is there probability? Yes," he said. "Do I wish it? No."
After Tuesday night's meeting ended, Mike Sperry Jr., a local businessman who's running for mayor in the November election, shouted out that the council is responsible for the city's poor financial situation.
"I don't care what you guys say -- you are to blame," he yelled with no response from the council.
Budget discussions will continue during future council meetings.
Livingston's next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Livingston City Council Chambers.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.