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City cuts not limited to police, fire, parks

City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell. File photo.

While proposed budget cuts to public safety departments have attracted a lot of public attention, the Sacramento City Council also discussed millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts to many other offices and departments earlier this week.

At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, council members examined cuts to departments and offices that include the mayor and City Council, Economic Development, Finance, Human Resources and Transportation. The city is in the throes of a budget crisis with a $39 million budget gap for the 2011/2012 fiscal year.

The City Council members decided on Tuesday to give a large chunk of its budget to the city’s general fund.

Council members’ budgets include revenues from cell phone towers and billboards. They moved $417,567 of $665,067 of these revenues to the general fund.

Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell was visibly frustrated by the council’s choice to move that money to the general fund, even though she voted to do so at the end of a discussion.

She said she utilizes her funds from cell phone and billboards on programs that help children in South Sacramento.

“What’s going to happen to the kids?” she asked.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the council members receive hundreds of funding requests from community groups each week. She said that community groups that support the arts, sports and festivals will need to understand that the council members will no longer be able to help fund them.

“We simply won’t have the money,” she said. “We won’t be able to do that.”

While they took $417,567 out of their collective budgets, each council member will still have a pot of $55,000 in discretionary account funds in the next fiscal year. The $247,500 remaining from the pot of $665,067 in cell phone and billboard revenues will be moved into the discretionary accounts to help each council member reach the $55,000 figure, according to Dawn Holm, a city staffer in the budget, policy and strategic planning division.

The $55,000 for each council member is not a new amount, Holm explained. Council members had that amount of discretionary funding in their budgets in the 2010/2011 fiscal year, Holm wrote in an email.

The discretionary accounts are available for the City Council to help fund community projects.

The council also listened to Finance Director Leyne Milstein explain proposed cuts to various departments. Interim City Manager Bill Edgar and Interim Deputy City Manager Betty Masuoka are proposing a $707,406 cut to the Economic Development department, including four full-time employee positions.

The Human Resources Department could lose two full-time employee positions as part of a proposed $240,000 cut.

A recommendation to chop $480,884 from Transportation’s budget is also included in the city manager’s proposed budget.

Breaking the trend of cuts, the proposed budget recommends two new hires to the Finance Department. The new employees would be hired as revenue collectors, Milstein said.

It’s unclear at this point how many people will actually be laid off as a result of the proposed cuts to positions.

Also on Tuesday, Councilman Darrell Fong said he wants to explore the idea of making more cuts to Finance, Human Resources and Information Technology. He did not explain at the meeting why he wanted to make those cuts. The council did not act on Fong’s idea Tuesday.

Read a report on proposed cuts to many city departments here.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.  

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