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Council explores long-term budget issues

Councilmen Steve Cohn and Rob Fong. File photo.

The Sacramento City Council discussed Thursday how to make major changes to city operations in the next few years to resolve the city’s long-term imbalance where costs outpace revenues.

The city’s $39 million gap for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is part of an ongoing trend of budget shortfalls. Multi-million budget gaps will remain until fiscal year 2015/2016 as a result of the city’s imbalanced finances, according to predictions by city officials.

“We need to set the expectation of what the City Council wants to provide for the residents and the businesses of this city,” Interim Deputy City Manager Betty Masuoka said.

Seven council members were at the budget meeting – Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilman Kevin McCarty were absent. Some of the council members said they wanted to explore the long-term budget problems on a regular basis after the budget is approved June 21.

The topic of city services was discussed during the meeting.

“We don’t even really have to be a full-service city,” Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said, “but we have to maintain core services.”

Councilman Rob Fong said the City Council should examine the ways the city administers services.

“We need to look at how we deliver the services that our citizens have come to expect,” Fong said. “So, what I would ask is that we take a strong look with our best thinkers … and say, ‘Shake the Etch A Sketch up … erase the white board.’ ”

Councilman Steve Cohn said that discussions about how to change the city and its budget should involve the rank-and-file workers. He questioned the format of Thursday’s meeting, saying that the council should consider meeting with workers in a format that is less formal than a City Council meeting in which council members sit on a dais or stage.

Councilman Jay Schenirer asked Masuoka to draft a schedule for council members to work on the long-term budget problems.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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