Cotati council orders backup plan for budget
City readies for ballot measure’s possible failure
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By Dave Williams  March 13, 2014 10:02 am

The Cotati City Council is trying to cover all its bases when it comes to its future budget plans. 

At a special budget workshop on Monday night, the council instructed city staff to come up with a couple of budgets – one showing continued revenue from the extension of Cotati’s local funding measure at the one-cent rate and a second budget detailing what cuts would be necessary without the $900,000 in revenue that Measure A currently generates.

The one-cent tax rate (Cotati Essential City Services Measure) will go before Cotati voters in a special election on June 3. Even though statewide candidates and propositions will be on the ballot, it is termed a special election because it is not in November in an even-numbered year.

Cotati voters approved Measure A in 2010, which raised the city’s sales tax rate by one half cent. It is scheduled to sunset in 2015. The city council discussed their priorities and how to best continue to provide essential services to residents. Included in the evening’s discussion were the possible cuts to services should the upcoming measure fail to pass. City Manager Dianne Thompson paints a bleak picture should Cotati voters reject the tax measure.

“We have taken extreme measures to cut costs,” Thompson said. “But with the ongoing state budget takeaways, including $600,000 this year alone, the city has very few options. The reality of what the city will need to do without additional funding – including the possibility of contracting with other public safety providers or the elimination of Cotati as an independent City – has to be assessed.”

The City Council voted unanimously to place the local funding measure on the ballot at its February 25th Council meeting. The Council had declared a Fiscal Emergency at the previous meeting, citing the continued money grabs from Sacramento that have cost the city $2.3 million.

The council asked that city staff begin looking at cost-saving measures, including the elimination of Cotati’s own locally run police department and cuts to crime prevention, domestic violence response, street maintenance and pothole repair services.

“The Council recognizes the importance of Cotati residents’ public safety and the need for the city to maintain its locally run police department,” Cotati Police Chief Michael Parish said. “However, without additional revenue, Cotati will be forced to seek alternatives which will ultimately lead to longer emergency response times and the loss of local police officers preventing and investigating property crimes.”

Also discussed at the workshop were the steps that have already been taken to cut costs, including a 28 percent reduction in staff, an 11 percent reduction in the overall general fund budget and reduced employee benefits.

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