At their June 16 meeting, council members were given an overview of the spending plan by Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.
"As everyone knows, what we've been going through in the current recession and current economic cycle is not typical," he stated.
Calabrigo said their assessment of the situation is that the town is facing two major fiscal impacts. The first being the global economic situation and its subsidiary effect on home sales, property taxes and sales taxes. The second being the unknown of what the state of California may do in its quest to achieve a balanced budget.
"For 2009-10, Town and Community Development Agency revenues have declined nearly $2 million below the 2008-09 levels and this is without the state takeaways," he explained.
As a result, the budget put before the council showed a 6.4 percent decrease over last year's budget and would require significant financial reductions across the board. Calabrigo said that the budget would show reductions in 33 of the 42 program areas in the town. Only six program areas are targeted for increases.
Areas receiving increases include town-wide special events, Animal Control, Building Services, Parks Maintenance, Roadside Maintenance and Youth Services.
Calabrigo said that there are five major programming areas in the town and all of them are being cut back.
* General Government: 14.0 percent
* Police Service: 2.1 percent
* Development/Transportation: 15.6 percent
* Maintenance Services: 0.1 percent
* Recreation Services: 1.7 percent
Staffing levels in the town are down by 5 percent, a figure Calabrigo said will remain steady as positions will not be filled. Besides the hiring freeze, town employees will not be seeing salary increases.
"Our system is entirely merit-based but there is no merit increase in the financial plan," he said.
Despite the glum economic news, Calabrigo said the spending plan they proposed is a solid one with the majority of the reductions designed to have as little impact on the public as possible. And despite the downturn and its effects, the town's budget will manage to keep an operating reserve of $10.3 million, or roughly 41 percent of the budget.
In discussing the budget process, Calabrigo said that the recession has created a new fiscal paradigm in local government, which will require constant attention.
"This is something we will have to manage and operate in for the next few years. Contingency plans will need to be in place in case the economic situation changes," he said.
Only one person spoke about the budget during the public hearing. Resident Linda Stolow called on the council to allot more resources to the town's burgeoning senior population.
"I don't think we can ignore the tsunami that is called baby boomers," she stated. "When I look at other communities that are less solvent and less affluent and I see what they've done for them, I want to recommend that we consider some other alternatives besides putting the seniors in the Veterans Building."
Calabrigo responded by saying that so far they are not seeing any programmatic evidence of an increase.
"The enrollment we see in all of our programs from youth through teens through adults all the way up to seniors are not changing significantly. We continue to see strong demand in all those areas," he said.
Mayor Newell Arnerich agreed. "There are a number of programs in Recreation Services that are going to see some cuts in 2009-10. That includes adults, seniors and cultural arts."
Councilwoman Candace Andersen said that even with all the cuts, seniors are still seeing improvements in service. "Even today in our current economic crisis we're still spending $55,000 more than we did in 2008," she said.
Council members decried the state's ongoing plans to take revenues away from the towns. Initial plans called for taking some property tax revenues in order to balance the budget but more recent plans are looking at gas tax funds.
"It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Councilman Mike Doyle, "and nobody knows how much Paul actually has. It's a disgrace that we've let this go on as long as we have."
"It's caused by the state's misguided self inflicted budget issues," agreed Arnerich.
After a brief discussion, council members voted unanimously to adopt the budget plan.