Atwater council to hear fiscal plan

Reductions, possible sales tax initiative language expected

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comOctober 21, 2012 

— On the heels of pay cuts, a fiscal emergency declaration and proposed layoffs, a plan to get the city out of its financial crisis is expected to be revealed during tonight's City Council meeting.

Frank Pietro, interim city manager and police chief, spearheaded development of the plan he said will be made public during the meeting.

It will include all concessions that employees have made recently, including the 22 percent pay cut the Atwater Police Officers' Association took, despite its contract not expiring until 2014.

"That's a large chunk of change," Pietro said, adding that the membership selflessly stepped up to help the city through its fiscal issues.

The document will detail budget reductions that are not related to personnel, and today's agenda packet will include language about a possible special election for a half-cent sales tax initiative.

Eight layoffs are expected to be included in the plan along with one employee moving from a full-time to part-time position, Pietro said. That's down from earlier this month, when 14 employees were given layoff notices and another 24 were given letters notifying them that they could be laid off as the city tries to balance its budget.

Copies of the plan will be available to those attending tonight's meeting.

It calls for nearly $3 million in savings and should balance the budget and avoid bankruptcy, Pietro said.

"I expect this to calm the bondholders and move us forward," he said.

The City Council voted to declare a common-law fiscal emergency earlier this month to give the city more flexibility to negotiate with employees who already are under contract. At the same time, the council postponed consideration of an Assembly Bill 506 fiscal emergency, which is a precursor to bankruptcy.

The item was scheduled for today's meeting, but Pietro expects it to be postponed again.

"If my plan works, we won't be discussing that anymore," he said. "I'm hoping the council and the citizens bear with us. We have a long row to hoe, but I think we can get out of this."

Today's open-session council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers at 750 Bellevue Road in Atwater.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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