Petaluma council pleased with budget outlook

Petaluma City Council members appeared pleased – or at least relieved – with the city's short-term financial outlook Monday during a workshop on the budget.

No layoffs are anticipated, and in fact three positions are being added. No pay cuts or unpaid furloughs will be asked of employees to save money. And city services won't be trimmed any further than they had been during the roughest financial pinch over the past few years.

But City Manager John Brown cautioned the council that the forecast isn't anything to breathe easier about yet. "I wouldn't go that far," he said.

"We're at a point where we are paying the piper," he said, for years of draining down several internal funds and nearly exhausting the city's rainy day fund to pay for essential services.

"Things aren't looking great," he said. "Were not in a place where we can start spending money."

The 2013-14 draft general fund budget, the fund that pays for most city salaries, benefits and services, weighs in at $35 million, 5.4 percent higher than the previous year's.

All of that $1.8 million increase is related to salaries and benefits.

Revenues are anticipated to increase about $745,000, to about $34.1 million. The approximately $890,000 difference is made up through a carryover of $1.4 million from last year's operating budget.

Brown's spending plan also designates $1.1 million to a reserve fund, an emergency account the council has made a priority of rebuilding.

The final budget will return to the council for a vote on May 20. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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