WatchSonoma Watch

Rohnert Park budget shows signs of health


Rohnert Park will finish the second half of the fiscal year in far better fiscal condition than it started, the city’s mid-year budget shows.

A projected $2 million deficit has been cut to $333,000 since July, a change due almost entirely to new sales tax revenue and employee wage and benefit concessions.

“We are in pretty good shape and definitely are moving in the right direction,” Vice Mayor Pam Stafford said Tuesday morning. The council was expected to approve the amended $26 million budget.

The improvement in the fiscal picture is even more dramatic when viewed in the longer term. Four years ago, the city faced a $9 million general fund deficit, and as recently as two years ago officials were mentioning bankruptcy as a possible recourse.

That prospect played a central theme in the campaign for a five-year, half-cent city sales tax. Voters approved Measure E in 2010. It took full effect this year and is projected to bring in $2.4 million.

“Had it not passed, in spite of getting costs savings from employees, our situation would continue to be dire,” said City Manager Gabe Gonzalez.

Employee concessions extracted in last year’s sometimes bitter contract negotiations are also evident in the latest budget.

Salary and benefit costs dipped from $22.3 million to $20.6 million, a $1.7 million savings. The public safety department accounted for $1 million of that.

Councilwoman Gina Belforte said that while the council can breathe easier, in other ways its job is “more intense than ever.”

She said, “We couldn’t have done it without the residents and staff, so we owe them even tighter controls to show them that their sales tax and their concessions are being put to good use.”

Both she and Stafford said further layoffs or concessions are unlikely if present conditions hold.

“If you prune a tree too much, it dies, and that’s not what we want to do to for the city,” Belforte said.

Stafford said the emphasis would likely be on tightening operations and managing cash flow better, things that Gonzalez has repeatedly emphasized.

“I don’t see us losing any more employees or anything like that, just becoming more efficient,” she said.

Mayor Jake Mackenzie said that the effects are already being felt, especially when projecting revenue.

“I think we’re operating on a much more realistic basis,” he said.

Now, Belforte said, beating one of her favorite drums, the city must continue to court new businesses.

“That Target Center down in Petaluma is going to take tax dollars out of Rohnert Park,” she said.

“Looking down the road, my concern is, how do we offset that? How do we make sure the tax revenue in our city continues to increase as Measure E sunsets” in 2015?

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Rohnert Park budget shows signs of health”

  1. Money Grubber says:

    John Hudson:

    Do not overlook the brand new UN-necessary court house being planned for Santa Rosa.

    You never heard the voters stand up and say we needed a new court house.

    It was a scheme hatched by public employees and criminal bureaucrats who want the finest that OUR money can buy them despite the lack of actual need.

    You should google the BANKRUPTCY of Stockton, CA, which is starting right now. Then realize that as that city cheats its creditors out of money owed by the city, it is in financial chaos because of its debt to pay public employee pensions. GREED on display throughout government.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  2. John Hudson says:

    The city council squandered $8.5 million of taxpayer funds on a new city hall that nobody outside of government wanted. The cost exceeded original authorization by a factor of eight. Nobody in city hall has ever uttered a single word of criticism for this fiasco, probably because much of the money found its way into the hands of their political allies and backers.

    The city council also, while acting as the redevelopment agency, gave Codding over
    $1 million in public funds for his “jobs incubator”. Codding then reciprocated by financing the election campaigns of Pam Stafford and her political allies who voted to make the gift to Codding. This is how the City of Rohnert Park really operates.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  3. john bly says:

    I have a lot of respect for the leadership in Rohnert Park. They have survived a very rough stretch, had their City Manager stare down Public Safety and get much needed concessions, and have reinvented their PRMD staff to actually welcome and support folks trying to open or renovate their businesses in their City. Hats off to Vice Mayor Stafford, Mayor Jake McKenzie, Council Member Gina Belforte, and Gabe Gonzalez. Rohnert Park can be proud of their elected officials and staff.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

Leave a Reply