Rohnert Park council hires consultant to help balance budget
Published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 10:09 p.m.
A Southern California consultant has been hired to review Rohnert Park’s finances and make recommendations to erase a lingering deficit that could grow to $8 million next year.
“Sometimes with a fresh set of eyes somebody can walk in and see what we might not have seen,” said Vice Mayor Gina Belforte.
On a 4-1 vote, the council approved a $28,500 contract with Urban Futures Inc., which has offices in Orange and San Francisco, to review its finances and management.
The input would be used to help the city with this year’s budget, which still has a deficit of at least $1.5 million even after the city sells off $5.8 million in land.
“This $28,500 to get the budget back in line is money well spent,” said Mayor Amie Breeze.
The firm, which does the same work for some 200 other California cities, will also propose options to help with the next year’s budget, which has a deficit of $8 million and no surplus land sales to use to balance it.
Councilman Joe Callinan, who has been a proponent of looking outside for an audit, said the city has been using land sales for the past several years to balance its budget. This practice has been a mistake, he said, one the city needs to abandon.
Councilman Jake Mackenzie initially had reservations about hiring an outside consultant, but supported hiring Urban Futures because of their “tightly focused management and financial review.”
Councilwoman Pam Stafford was opposed, arguing that the staff and council should try to tackle the problems first. She complained the process was run by a two-member council committee and she felt left out.
“I feel like we were elected to deal with these problems ... the public expects us to deal with these issues,” Stafford said.
Urban Futures is scheduled to finish a review by mid-April and develop recommendations by mid-May. The contract is $28,350, plus $195 an hour and expenses for additional work.
The city this year has a $36 million general fund budget that was adopted last September with the assumption that it would be in balance with $5.8 million from the sale of surplus land.
That includes a $2.9 million sale of city land to the city’s redevelopment agency, a $1 million sale for the establishment of wetlands, and a $1.9 million sale of the Crushers stadium site to a development group for homes and commercial buildings.
Since the budget was adopted, the city’s revenues have fallen off $1.5 million, largely in sales tax revenues.
Next year, the city will face a budget deficit of $8 million, with no surplus land sales available to offset the shortage, and in the worst case scenario could be out of cash by the end of 2010.
Urban Futures was the second-lowest bidder for work that was estimated to cost $50,000. Other bidders were Dave Brennan, $16,403; Bruce McConnell, $31,525; Management Partners, $67,400; and former city manager Carl Leivo, $91,400.
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