The Sparks City Council was asked to ratify a sweeping set of budget cuts at their 2 p.m. meeting that were announced Jan. 5. The proposal trimmed $2.7 million from the budget, slicing 34 jobs and eliminating programs ranging from police presentations in elementary schools to the city's urban forestry program.
Closing down the two pools along with the marina for the upcoming swim season was also on the list of cuts. However, city council members overwhelmingly agreed that those programs needed to remain in place.
Following the 4-1 vote, with Councilman Ron Schmitt objecting, the budget cuts will move forward as outlined with the exception of the pools opening only for limited hours during the summer.
The marina's swim hours will remain the same as last year, said Sparks Parks and Recreation Department director Stan Sherer. However, the hours at Deer and Oppio pools are yet to be announced.
According to Sherer, the summer swimming generally costs the city about $150,000 annually. But with the reduced hours at the two pools, the cost will shrink to $106,000 per year.
The swimmers are watched over by seasonal staff and Sherer estimates that between the four swimming locations, the Parks and Recreation Department hires about 50 lifeguards each season.
"By reducing the hours, that is the compromise," Sherer said.
He added that while the swimming lessons offered at these pools would bring in revenue, they are not self-sustaining.
"Our aquatics programs don't make money," Sherer said. "And I don't see that (they) will be self-sustaining."
The vote followed on the heels of lengthy conversation about many other programs that councilmembers felt needed insulation.
"I was not please that I was not able to make a case for those (other services)," Ccouncilwoman Julia Ratti said. "But I am going to vote in favor of this."
Other services that surfaced as a matter of concern along with the pools were code enforcement, traffic calming, graffiti removal and bullets for police officers to use in their training.
Each of those areas were reduced by the recent budget cuts.
The increased cuts were the result of decreased sales tax revenues along with worsening economic conditions, city finance director Tom Minton said.
Minton projected an 18 percent decline in consolidated tax revenue, a major source of income to the city, over the next year. This would mean $4 million less in city coffers, he said.
Minton also told the council that sales tax revenue from auto sales was off by 26 percent, building materials sales taxes fell short by 20 percent and tax revenue from eating and drinking establishments was also down by 20 percent.
This round of cuts brings the city's total budget reductions to $7.2 million just this past year.
Monday's approved cuts were also in addition to the $2.5 million trimming that the council identified at its meeting on Dec. 1.
The consensus at that meeting was to pursue negotiations with various department heads and department bargaining agencies in order to cut 4 percent from every employee's salary across the board. As of Jan. 1, the city was unable to reach agreements with every unit, bringing about the need for layoffs, said city manager Shaun Carey.
For more specifics on which jobs and services were cut, see the Sparks Tribune article dated Jan. 6, 2009, headlined "Cutting to the bone."