City manager lays groundwork for budget sessions

By From page A3 | May 15, 2014

VACAVILLE — Councilman Curtis Hunt would like to look into health care alternatives in order to save the city some bucks as it struggles to keep moving in a positive direction financially in upcoming years.

Hunt, responding to a lengthy budget update Tuesday by City Manager Laura Kuhn, brought up a program offered by United Healthcare that he said reduced premiums for employees who participate in a fitness program.

“It is a points-based program that offers incentives for enrollees,” he wrote in an email to the Daily Republic. “The employees are screened and provided tools and resources, including online coaching. They earn points and the points are converted in direct reduction of premiums.”

Hunt’s suggestion came in light of some of the issues the city still faces, despite improvements in some areas. At issue are a number of obstacles, such as a $3.8 million clawback in connection with the city’s former redevelopment agency. That money will be deducted from the general fund, reducing its reserve amount.

Also causing concern, despite improving revenues, the city is looking at a continued structural deficit, which sees a widening gap between expenditures and revenues for the next five years; the ever-increasing costs of health care and retirement for city employees; plus a possible loss in sales tax revenue as competition looms for the Vacaville Premium Outlets with a new outlet mall in Livermore.

The city is currently buoyed by Measure M, a five-year sales tax approved by voters in 2012. Kuhn cautions that the city needs to prepare for the end of Measure M money.

Hunt honed in on the structural deficit and said during the meeting, “That’s a pretty scary structural deficit. We’ve been through this a lot (and) you just can’t spend what you don’t have. I would like to evaluate some of the costs of our health care.”

Kuhn said staff would look into it and see if an incentive program is available in the health plan the city currently uses.

On the positive side, the city plans to revive its vehicle replacement program to replace high-mileage vehicles; it’s adding a capital improvement plan to fix aging city buildings; and more sales tax is being brought in than is currently budgeted. Kuhn still called the 2 percent sales tax growth figure “flat.”

Genentech and Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson are expanding, adding new jobs to Vacaville. Future projects include another pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, and Icon Aircraft’s announcement Wednesday that it will relocate to Vacaville.

Councilman Mitch Mashburn said that while he’s pleased with the economic growth, he’d like to see the restoration of some services, such as in the public works and the Fire Department sectors. He said it might require some “out-of-the-box thinking” to bring some services back.

“We owe that to the (citizens),” he said.

The city begins grappling with the next fiscal year’s budget with sessions scheduled May 27 and June 10. The 2014-15 fiscal year begins July 1.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.


Discussion | 2 comments

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  • Tax PayerMay 15, 2014 - 5:13 am

    Here we go again with the budget issue conversation in Vacaville. I will bring it up again but I know that our council will not address it as the Fire Department is the most powerful union in the city. Fire/Paramedic program is in the red each year $3.0 million due to the costs of services versus the payments we get from insurance companies. This has occurred since we stopped driving to Kaiser Vallejo years ago. In the past 10 years we would have had an additional $30.0 million plus in the general fund if we went to the private companies that all the other cities have in Solano county. We would also get a $600-700k subsidy from the private company each year for using their service. Also additional savings not having a $115,000 salary plus Pers retirement benefits for each fire/paramedic that works 9 days a month.I have brought this up to council and got this response "Our citizens like their paramedic service". Really at what cost council if you were truly thinking about the "quality of life" of all citizens?

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  • The MisterMay 15, 2014 - 7:16 am

    Great points, TP. I'm wondering if Councilman Hurtis Hunt wouldn't throw the City employees under the bus, or the firetruck, and put them on Obamacare. Of course he wouldn't do that to the Fire Department... but he'd do that to the Police in a hot second.

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