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Windsor finances better than most


Windsor is arguably in the best fiscal shape of all Sonoma County cities, with a comfortable cushion of reserves in its general fund.

While the town has been able to avoid layoffs and many of the cutbacks experienced by its neighbors, there are still trouble signs.

“In the short run, we could say we are doing well on the budget,” Jim McAdler, director of administrative services, said Wednesday. “The problem we have is a long-term issue.”

Windsor has had to dip into its general fund reserves and projections show the $7.6 million surplus being steadily whittled down in the next few years.

“We will run out at our current spending rate,” McAdler said of the reserves. “We’re looking to reduce that spending rate so the reserves last longer.”

That means employee groups can expect to be asked to make more concessions in the next round of negotiations over pension, health insurance and salary costs.

Steve Allen

But Mayor Steve Allen said he basically is “in awe” of the good job Windsor has done with its budget, and how employees have helped keep down expenses.

“It seems everywhere else there are constant revelations of much bigger gaps than projected,” he said of other cities and government agencies.

“Kudos to the town,” said Councilman Sam Salmon, who nevertheless noted Windsor doesn’t provide some of the same services as other cities, such as a municipal swimming pool, and as a result residents may be underserved.

McAdler credits a number of factors, including conservative spending and revenue estimates, and going to the Town Council regularly with updates on the general fund, pegged at $14 million for 2010-11.

He said it also helps that Windsor contracts for police services with the Sheriff’s Department and has a separately funded, independently run fire district. The town spends about 44 percent of its general fund on police services, while most cities with their own police departments spend more than 50 percent, according to McAdler.

Windsor has not escaped belt-tightening the past couple of years. Vacancies in the town’s 105-employee work force have gone unfilled, employees have taken time off without pay during the holidays and numerous part-time positions in the parks and recreation department were eliminated.

Officials dipped into general-fund reserves for $861,000 over two years to help pay for everything from Town Green events to major engineering projects, including new bike lanes, street pavement repair and drainage improvements.

In his semi-annual review, McAdler noted that high unemployment and a weak housing market create a continuing drag on the national and state economy. Economists say “it will take at least five years for the economy to recover to some meaningful strength and normalcy,” he said.

Like other cities, Windsor has seen a drop in property tax revenues, but last year it was not as severe as projected. Windsor officials said that’s because there was an additional one-year lag before assessed property values dropped significantly after the onslaught of the recession, which began in December 2007.

But property tax revenues are expected to drop this fiscal year, which begins July 1. And sales tax revenues also are problematic. They’ve dropped by almost $1.5 million from a high of around $4 million in 2007 and are anticipated to remain flat for the next five years.

“We’re not coming out of this anytime soon. We still need to be in hunkered-down mode,” said Councilwoman Robin Goble said.

4 Responses to “Windsor finances better than most”

  1. Windsor is fortunate. They played an econic sympathy game. They fired an employy due to lack of money. They said they were broke. After the lay off of Jan, they found over a million dollars. Wow aren’t we fortunate that the finance director was so lucky to find that money. This go around they are firing three, demoting two, and eliminating more positions. What kind of political points will the finance director get this time. They are also asking for concessions from employees. Windsor employees should do no better than others in their field. And they should do no worse
    What is happining to the lost money while it waits to be found. How many other finance
    managers are playing the same game? Who’s calling the shots?it is our money being banked in Windsor. It is our employees being fired. It is our services that will suffer as our bills go up. How much do they need in the bank. If they can loose one million dollars they have too much to manipulate.

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  2. Sue says:

    WE JUST HIRED A NEW PLANNING DIRECTOR! Why? How much would we save if we contracrted that work out as we did years ago? Hey I know lets do a study and see what the consultants think!

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  3. truth in news says:

    Gee, maybe some of these other cities would be solvent if they contracted law enforcement to the Sheriffs Department as well. Look at Cloverdale 7 million for a fire house? What did that leave for law enforcement? Oh, thats right, no crime in Cloverdale! Too much redundancy which could be eliminated by contracting out the police.

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  4. The Wrong Retailers Too Many Restrictions says:

    I’ve been speaking with small business owners and they have expressed to me that Windsor is getting to restrictive in what business can go where, how they are to be operated and when they can operate.

    Windsor council is afraid of making big decisions to generate revenue, you would be surprised to know how many projects have amounted to nothing.

    But on the other hand when the town council is pressed their efforts result in mediocrity: Town Greens Retail failing, Walmart really makes Windsor look classy.

    Why doesn’t Windsor attract companies like: Trader Joe’s, Costco (huge tax revenue),Ikea, Fry’s Electronics, Bestbuy, 24 hr fitness, YMCA, Sport Authority and even a movie theater? (Airport Stadium is in Santa Rosa; Less tax revenue for us mean less facilities-like a swim center)

    While the town council has been stressing how to save their little nuts and bring in average retailers (Target) Santa Rosa aggressively annex highly valuable taxable land south of Windsor leaving less for the further of Windsor.

    It’s gotten so pathetic what Windsor needs if you lived in Windsor all your life and died you couldn’t even get buried in Windsor because the only burial ground left in Windsor (North of Shiloh Rd) is in Santa Rosa.

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