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Alameda City Council to Hold Public Budget Workshop Tuesday

Major shortfalls loom in the next four years.

The Alameda City Council will take an early look at the city's 2012-2013 budget Tuesday — and the picture isn't pretty.

City staff project a shortfall of $4.4 million for fiscal year 2012-13 and estimated deficits of $3 million-plus for the following three fiscal years.

The budget study session will take place during a special council meeting at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers at , 2263 Santa Clara Ave. It's the third and final meeting in a series of special public workshops scheduled this fall. The first two workshops focused on the and on .

Before the workshop, council members will meet in closed session at 6 p.m. to discuss a performance evaluation for the city manager and the hiring of a permanent city attorney.

You may download agendas for the closed session and the public meeting at the City of Alameda website. Click on the PDF at right for an outline of the budget presentation.

The council is expected to allow time for public comment following the budget presentation.

The budget workshop "is important for two reasons: it informs the public of the budgeting process and it provides the opportunity for the council to receive public input well before city staff begins to prepare next year’s budget,” said City Manager John Russo.
 
This is the earliest start ever for the City of Alameda’s budget process, he said.

“While the budget is not due until next June, it’s important that we begin early so that there won’t be any surprises,” Russo said. “The public deserves the time to understand how public budgeting is done and the impacts of City Hall’s decisions.”
 
At the workshop, city staff will present overviews of expenditures, revenues and reserves, as well as the city’s maintenance and infrastructure needs and funding polices.

Among the bits of bad news, as included in the staff outline for the budget workshop:

• The five-year projection assumes no salary increases through fiscal year 2015-16.

• While reserve funds can make up a projected $1.54 million deficit for the current fiscal year (2011-12), using what remains of those funds to plug the estimated gaps in future years would violate the city's own policy.

Among the possibilities for achieving a balanced — or at least more balanced — city budget in this and future fiscal years:

• Reducing the city's workforce

• Eliminating some city programs

• Negotiating with city employee unions about furloughs, benefit cost-sharing and pay reductions

• Increasing various fees and taxes

• Reevaluating current city funding policies in areas such as reserves and facility replacement.

Next steps in the budget process recommended by city staff are a mid-fiscal year review in February, 2012, followed by council budget workshops in April and May and adoption of a final budget for the current fiscal year in June, 2012.

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