Merced to hold public budget workshops Friday, Saturday

The city of Merced said the City Council will hold a study session today and Saturday to develop policies and goals for the upcoming budget year.

The city faces a $5.5 million structural deficit for the 2011-12 budget year and has issued layoff notices to 64 employees. Over the past three years, city revenues have declined as property and sales taxes dropped more than 30 percent.

In response, the city has laid off employees and eliminated more than 90 positions, used some of its $16 million reserves, lowered employee medical benefits, raised employee pension contributions and cut maintenance, travel, training and other expenses.

At the workshop, the council will try to develop a financial strategy for the next several years. As part of that process, it will identify economic development and capital project priorities for the city, according to a news release. The council will discuss public safety priorities.

Time will be set aside for public comment during the meetings. The workshops will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. today and start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday in the Sam Pipes Room on the first floor of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St., Merced.

The agenda is posted at www.cityofmerced.org and is available in the Sam Pipes Room prior to the meeting. Request-to-speak cards are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the city's website. Cards must be turned in to the city clerk for a person to be recognized by the council.