On behalf of everyone at City Hall, I welcome our new Community Development Director, Charles “Charlie” Mullen, who joined our city staff on Monday as the number-one candidate. With a master’s degree in urban planning, Charlie comes to us from Lathrop, where he was the Principal Planner. As the only planner in that department, he handled all current, advanced and counter-planning activities, so he is well-acquainted with keeping all the plates spinning. Previous to his work in Lathrop, Charlie was Planning Director in Red Bluff and Senior Planner in San Ramon.
We also want to thank our interim Community Development Director, Ken Craig, who did a great job of keeping everything in planning on track and offered valuable fresh perspectives during his three months with us.
At this time of year, we start planning next year’s city budget. Our very conservative budgeting traditionally underestimates revenues and overestimates expenses in a lean $3.7million general fund budget to run the city. It is part of staff’s daily mission to keep operational expenses down.
To that end, we’ve researched the cost-benefit that might occur by upgrading our HVAC systems at city hall and the library. Unfortunately, necessary upgrade costs would greatly outweigh the minor energy efficiencies we would achieve.
Likewise, at the request of many citizens, we looked again at the expense to install more efficient pumps at the Clayton fountain so the geysers might be run more frequently. Most of the pumps are already energy-efficient and the pay-back period of more efficient pumps would be over 40 years with a much less life-expectancy – not a wise investment. Additionally, even with more efficient pumps, the cost to run the fountain daily would still be nearly $100,000 per year. That’s certainly not in the budget you voted on. So, the geysers on the fountain will continue to be run on specified holidays and special-event weekends only. Residents may have them run on other occasions for a fee of $300 per weekend.
For the past five years there have been no merit or cost-of-living increases for city staff and they have taken 11 unpaid furlough days (equivalent to a 4.3 percent pay cut) each year to help keep our budget balanced. Clayton is one of very few cities that has never drawn on its general fund reserves ($5.2 million) to fill budget gaps or pay on-going costs during this troubling recession. We have judiciously kept that fund, as intended, in reserve for one-time emergency expenses.
So far, we are cautiously optimistic that the economy is somewhat in recovery. A couple new businesses have opened in downtown and interest in developing empty lots is stirring. Home sale prices are rising which will help strengthen property tax returns to our city coffers. Hopefully, those increases in revenue will keep pace with dramatic 10 to 20 percent increases in costs the city is charged by other agencies next fiscal year for sewer, various insurance coverage, etc. It’s always a tight balancing act. We are grateful residents understand and appreciate our need to continue to be frugal, just like you are doing.
As always, you can contact me by email at JPierce@ci.clayton.ca.us. Let me know what you think!