Merced council to discuss budget deficit, plus proposal to add four more police officers

The Merced City Council will continue its public hearing on the 2011-12 proposed budget and vote on its adoption at its Monday night meeting.

The city is proposing to lay off more than 40 employees to deal with the deficit and use more than $1.5 million in reserves to balance the budget.

Local property and sales tax revenue has declined by more than 30 percent during the recession, which left the city with a $5 million deficit as it began the budget process.

The city initially issued layoff notices to 64 employees, but 19 positions in police and fire were added back to the budget by reducing additional expenditures, shifting funds and using other reserves and funds.

The council will consider a proposal to add four more police officers back into the budget to work as school resource officers, largely funded by local school districts. It also will consider adding a firefighter back into the budget who would be funded with Measure C sales tax money.

The City Council will consider a contract on the agenda to have a private company mow lawns at city parks for $189,000, saving $222,000, according to a news release.

Over the last three years, the city said in the release, it has laid off employees, eliminated more than 90 positions and used some of its $16 million reserves to balance budgets. It has lowered employee medical benefits, raised employee pension contributions and cut additional expenses such as travel, training and maintenance to deal with the declining revenues.

The council will continue discussion of the budget at a study session at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the council chamber. The final vote on the budget is on the agenda for the 7 p.m. council meeting.

Also on the council agenda is a public hearing on maintenance district operations and budgets. Most districts are fully funded; however, a handful of districts will continue to have reduced maintenance because past elections to raise fees failed.

The council will consider accepting $500,303 in grant funds to purchase and install public safety radio equipment. The funding also will allow for standardization of communications equipment and software.

The regular City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the council chamber on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St. A closed session will be held at 5:30 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators and to discuss existing litigation.

The agenda is posted at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chamber 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.