An influx of overdue and unexpected state cash means Sonoma County government will soon be adding about 54 jobs in various welfare and aid programs.
The wave of hiring is a change for the county of late. Since the recession hit government coffers four years ago, the county has been focused more on shrinking its workforce or holding staff levels flat.
But the slow financial turnaround has recently unleashed some money due to the county for state and federally-funded programs administered at the local level. Those include services that assist and protect seniors and children, provide food stamps and oversee Medi-Cal and other health care programs for low income residents.
Hey buddy, can you spare a dime? Rohnert Park may start a foundation to raise money for city events such as the city’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebration. Funding cultural programs, rather than basic city services, would be the likely goal. But recreation programs, which are traditionally funded by the city’s general fund, might also benefit.
In 2007, Rohnert Park officials cut in half the amount the city needed to cover the costs of medical benefits it offered retired employees. Overnight, the city’s unfunded liability went from $56 million to $27 million – at least on paper. But that gain has since evaporated. Today, the unfunded liability stands at $53.2 million – principally because the city failed to start putting away money it had promised its retirees and current workers.
Struggling with 40 percent of its office space vacant, years of flat sales tax revenues and a $2.5 million budget deficit, Sonoma County’s third-largest city hopes to help itself by helping commercial property owners. Rohnert Park officials are fashioning a program to make cheap loans to property owners who want to renovate shopping plazas or office parks.
Rohnert Park’s interim assistant city manager will stay through April to focus on economic development and other issues. John Dunn, whose salary caused a stir when he was hired in May as interim city manager, said his replacement has asked him to stay the full length of his consulting contract.
The Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday said labor costs must be reviewed to keep the city fiscally sound in the long term, setting the stage for what’s likely to be a contentious period of relations with its 154 employees.
Should Rohnert Park reduce city employees’ pay and benefits? It’s a conversation that is going to take political courage, Councilman Jake Mackenzie says. The City Council meets today to discuss a new memo that projects the city must cut almost $1 million annually over the next six years. But where?