CERES -- City leaders are seeking wage and benefit concessions from employee labor groups as they try to approve a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Financial troubles, caused by a recessionary decline in revenues, shook City Hall this year, starting in February with a reorganization of several departments and layoffs and eliminations of 14 positions.
The City Council got more sour news this month, when staff released estimates that the city would take in $15.1 million in revenue during the 2009-10 fiscal year, and expenditures would rise to $17.46 million, creating a $2.36 million deficit.
The human resources director and a deputy city clerk have since lost their jobs, and officials say an 8 percent reduction in personnel costs still is needed to balance the 2009-10 budget. City officials have been discussing wage and benefit reductions with the labor groups representing city employees.
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At a meeting later this month, the City Council will decide whether to eliminate the position held by Recreation Director Doug Lemcke.
City Manager Brad Kilger said officials made significant cuts in nonpersonnel categories before reducing payroll. Additional personnel cuts are needed to keep the city's reserves from slipping to inappropriate levels, he said.
City negotiators had closed-door discussions Thursday with representatives of the Ceres Police Officers Association, Ceres Firefighters Association, miscellaneous employees, supervisors, middle management employees and department heads. Unionized employees are expected to vote on changes to their labor contracts before July 1.
Eric Holly, president of the 27-member Ceres Firefighters Association, said the group is trying to work with the city to avoid additional staffing cuts.
"We are already at or below adequate staffing levels," Holly said. "It would be ideal if we could do this without a pay cut, but everything is open to discussion right now."
With the passage of the Measure H sales tax for public safety in 2007, the city hired additional police officers and firefighters last year and is under a voter mandate to maintain the staffing.
Holly said the firefighters association is willing to do its part to balance the city budget, because it realizes Ceres is dealing with the same budget woes as other cities.
Eliminating the 14 positions earlier this year will save Ceres about $950,000. Under a two-year budget balancing strategy, the city is trying to make additional cuts to reduce the deficit by $1.395 million and will make the rest of the cuts going into the 2010-11 budget year.
The city has been forced to reorganize departments and divide the responsibilities among the remaining staff at City Hall, Kilger said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.