Fewer police officers, less support staff and longer lag times in park maintenance are just a few of the more visible effects in Redondo Beach of the economic downturn.
Two years ago, Redondo Beach fell $3 million short of its $11-million estimate of sales tax revenue, and revenue from property taxes is continuing to decline.
On Tuesday night residents weighed in as Mayor Mike Gin sat down in City Council chambers with Bill Workman, city manager, to discuss the effects of an economy still struggling to recover.
In a forum known as Budget Talk Live, residents were invited to participate via e-mail, phone, Twitter and--of course--live from the audience. The event was broadcast on cable and streamed online.
The budget for the fiscal year 2010-2011 will be submitted to the City Council in late May, and the council is scheduled to adopt it June 15 after reviews and public hearings. Tuesday's forum was part of the city's effort to engage residents in the budget development process, and this is the second year the mayor hosted such event.
Before taking questions, Workman shared some of his insights and observations with the audience.
"What I've seen in the past is that when you have a recession, you might have two or three of your categories of revenue go down," Workman said. "In this particular great recession, virtually every single category is going down."
Workman said that city staff will continue to take the 6-percent pay cut implemented last year and that he will be recommending additional reductions in staffing.
"It starts with revenue, then you talk about expenditures," Workman said. "I wish our state and federal governments would take on that mantra."
The following are some of the questions submitted Tuesday night by the public, along with Workman's responses. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: How were city services affected by last year's budget cuts?
Workman: Millions of dollars were cut from the budget. We've reduced the variety of positions for virtually every single city department. The children's librarian position was eliminated, and we unfunded three police officer positions. Franklin Community Center was closed.
We've reduced the number of local capital projects [such as] local street resurfacing projects. At the city manager, mayor and city council offices, there is no receptionist. You can come and make appointments, but you have to go through a single receptionist in the city clerk's office.
It is taking longer to get grass cut in our parks.
The public is bearing with us so far. Although we do get complaints, they are much more understanding with the economic situation.
Q: In 2009-2010, the adopted general fund revenues were $72.5 million and the expenditures were $68.3 million. What are the 2010-11 predictions?
Workman: The revenues are going to be down millions of dollars even from our prediction from last year. At the midyear report in February we predicted that our revenue and expenditures will be around the $60-million mark.
Q: What reserve does the city have in place, and have we had to use any of the reserve to close the revenue/expenditure gap?
Workman: The City Council's policy is that out of the general fund, we keep 8.66 percent reserved. It is small compared to other communities, which reserve 15 to 20 percent.
Our goal every year is to not touch the reserve. That is really an emergency reserve. It is not a reserve we can depend on to fill the gaps.
We need that reserve for emergencies. We can easily burn through $2 million a day in an earthquake with no problem at all.