Rohnert Park on Tuesday became the second Sonoma County city to opt out of the first year of Sonoma Clean Power, while Santa Rosa’s leaders continued to push back against the June 30 deadline set for the decision.
They have watched their city’s budget deficit slowly shrink for four years, but on Tuesday the Rohnert Park City Council bent under the accumulating — and rising — weight of retirement and medical benefits and unanimously agreed to declare a fiscal emergency.
From his property just west of Rohnert Park, Danny Nakash has watched with anticipation the rapid rise of the casino being built by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. It is a sight he long waited for because it signals what he hopes will be a boon to his business, Raz Taxi.
Rohnert Park and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have agreed to a new revenue-sharing deal worth $40 million more than one they signed in 2003. The agreement is intended to more fully address the impacts of the casino the tribe is now building.
The future shape of gambling in Sonoma County gained greater detail Monday as Station Casinos released the first official drawings of the enormous Indian casino under construction outside Rohnert Park.
Wal-Mart is resuming efforts to expand its Rohnert Park store into a superstore, reviving a controversial plan that was halted in court after one of the more divisive arguments in recent city history. The city Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday to review the project and new studies evaluating its effect on the community.
The Rohnert Park City Council authorized a change to the city’s employment rules Tuesday, making it much easier for the city manager to fire future department heads. The decision means that all future executive level staff will be at-will employees. Currently, they work under for-cause agreements that require a lengthy process before someone can be dismissed.
An actuary on Tuesday painted an improving picture of Rohnert Park’s financial ability to continue providing medical benefits for retired employees. The city’s unfunded liability has been cut from $53.2 million in February 2011 to $40.7 million now. The unfunded liability is the difference between what the city owes for future medical benefits for retired and existing employees and what it has paid into a trust fund run by the state public employees’ retirement system, CalPERS.
Rohnert Park councilmembers Tuesday unanimously approved a $22 million budget. The 2012-2013 budget projects a $2.5 million deficit but City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said the city has the cash to cover the shortage.