Council Braces for Report on City's Finances

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 13, 2008

The news might not be surprising after the last few weeks of economic turmoil, but that doesn’t make it any better.  As City Manager Ray Kerridge wrote in a memo to city employees obtained by KXJZ, “What we are seeing nationally and internationally has a direct impact to our city budget.”  And Mayor Heather Fargo agrees.
Fargo: “The things that are happening in Sacramento, I don’t think, are the result of bad decisions made by the city of Sacramento.  I think they are within the context of what is going on at the state and national level.” 
But after already cutting four percent from the city’s fire department, eight percent from police and 20 percent from every other city department to balance the budget back in June, council member Sandy Sheedy says she and her colleagues will have to make some very tough decisions.
Sheedy: “Right now, we’re facing difficult choices and we need to be very, very clear about our priorities.  And the time when we can do everything we wanted to do really has passed.  Now we have to look at what we can do.” 
And to Sheedy, her top priorities are police and fire – hands down.  She says she won’t support any more cuts to public safety.  Council member Steve Cohn says he, too, won’t support further service reductions.  But he’s open to making administrative and operational cuts to police and fire.
Cohn: “I don’t think any department should be exempt from a very hard scrutiny when it comes to any overhead or fat, if you will.  But I will not support cuts that will reduce actual service on the street.” 
Mayor Fargo took a similar position to Cohn’s on police patrols, but said she wants to take a closer look at the fire department.
That leaves other services, which make up less than 30 percent of the city’s discretionary spending.  Sheedy says it’s too soon to tell whether budgets like parks, libraries, or code enforcement will be cut.  But she can’t rule out city workers losing their jobs.
Sheedy: “Nobody wants to do layoffs.  I can assure you of that.  We’re going to try to find a way of doing it without that.  But everything’s on the table right now.” 
Treasurer Russ Fehr will discuss Sacramento’s financial situation at tomorrow night’s council meeting.  And city manager Ray Kerridge is encouraging all of Sacramento’s 5,000 employees to pay close attention to what Fehr says.