12:04 AM PDT on Sunday, June 6, 2010

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

Continued employee wage and benefit concessions were key to Loma Linda’s approval of a balanced spending program for the fiscal year beginning July 1, City Manager T. Jarb Thaipejr said.

A general fund budget used to pay for most day-to-day services totals $13.8 million, about $300,000 less than the spending plan for the current fiscal year. It is also nearly $2 million less than 2008-09, before the slumping economy and housing crunch hit Loma Linda hard.

The general fund will have an $11,000 surplus to be added to the city’s reserves, Finance Director Diana De Anda told the City Council recently. Some $7.6 million in unspent revenue will be divided between reserve funds that pay for both unexpected bills and equipment needing replacement.

“Without question, comparing us to our neighbors far and near,” Councilman Floyd Petersen said, the city is in good financial shape.

“There are a lot of cities out there that would give their right arm for this one,” he said of Loma Linda’s budget.

While Loma Linda laid off four people in the past year, the city will not have to eliminate any more positions in the 2009-10 fiscal year, Thaipejr said.

The biggest difference in staving off deep cuts, he said, were concessions from unions representing 100 employees that extended 5 percent pay cuts and cutbacks in benefits enacted for the current year.

The pay cuts come in the form of furloughs amounting to 30 minutes a day, which is expected to save $270,000.

In addition, the city has reduced its contribution to employee benefits by $50 a month.

Despite belt-tightening, Thaipejr said, there are no major public works projects that will have to be scrapped.

The city will be spending $500,000 to make improvements at the Whittier and Beaumont avenue railroad crossings to preclude train engineers sounding their horns as they approach. Money for the so-called quiet zones is being carried over from this year’s budget, the city manager said.

Loma Linda will spend $290,000 for the seismic retrofit of a bridge on Anderson Street south of Redlands Boulevard and $580,000 in federal block grant and voter-approved transportation funds for improvements to five major city streets.

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