SUISUN CITY — A yearlong delay in seeing a new Walmart opened, a city lawsuit with the state over redevelopment money and increases in health insurance and other personnel costs mean that the Suisun City Council has to stretch its years-long bridging budget strategy for another year.
The City Council approved a $10.2 million 2014-15 fiscal year budget Tuesday that keeps empty city positions frozen open, restores half of a 5 percent cut in salaries and maintains current furlough days. Suisun City only expects to make $9.3 million in revenue and has a beginning balance of $2.8 million and an emergency reserve of $1.7 million.
Councilman Mike Segala cast the sole no vote, saying that city staff did not give him enough information on how they were going to deal with the structural deficit.
Other council members gave the budget their support. Vice Mayor Lori Wilson said she was also worried about the structural deficit but added, “a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said that if Walmart proves to be a sales tax money-maker and no more fiscal problems crop up, the deficit could be erased in next year’s budget.
The city in previous budget years had been doling out reserves in spartan, hold-the-line budgets with the hopes that the proposed Walmart would open this summer and start generating an estimated $1.1 million in sales taxes for city coffers.
City leaders had hoped this would be the year when that expected revenue would allow them to restore staffing and service levels that were cut during the Great Recession and its aftermath, according to the budget report prepared by Assistant City Manager Ron Anderson.
But problems with the Walmart site generated higher-than-expected contractor costs and prompted the national retailer to put the project back out to bid, creating a nine-month delay that was estimated to cost Suisun City $800,000 in expected revenue.
Anderson stressed that things are looking up with Walmart under construction for an April 2015 opening date. He said city revenues have grown and developers are starting the process to build more homes in town.
By keeping 17 vacant city positions frozen open, Anderson predicted Suisun City’s workforce will feel “significant strains that need to be monitored closely.”
“Recognize that staffing levels are at the point where service levels are impacted, though no major service area has been cut completely,” Anderson wrote. “Further staffing reductions would exacerbate this situation and/or require consideration of eliminating services.”
Resident concerns with street maintenance are prompting City Hall to consider a plan to move forward with talks with Republic Services, formerly Solano Garbage Co., to provide street sweeping services while still providing landfill drop-off chits for residents.
If the city loses its lawsuit with the state Department of Finance, Anderson stated the city is hoping that the $1.75 million payment could be made in installments.
The city’s planned capital improvement projects, such as the train depot rehabilitation, the second phase of the Lawler Ranch park, the Walters Road rehabilitation and putting in the signal at Walters Road and Pintail Drive are all being primarily funded by grants.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.