Even with one-time fixes city facing a $5M deficit
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/13/2011 08:18:15 PM PDT

RIALTO – Two weeks ago, residents flooded the Council Chambers when the controversial contract with American Water Works Co. Inc. was up for a vote.

Sharp rate increases were at stake and public input forced a decision that ended a move to contract out the city’s water department.

There were far fewer residents at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting when city staff delivered some sobering news: If no action is taken, employee expenses will absorb 100percent of the city’s budget in fiscal year 2015.

And working capital – the cash needed to pay for daily operations – will become strained starting in fiscal year 2013, Redevelopment Agency Director Robb Steel told the council.

Staff presented the council a budget document with an $11 million deficit.

And they outlined a series of one-time fixes to reduce the deficit to about $5 million, including strategic savings plans for the police and fire departments.

But over the long term, no real fix for Rialto’s financial dilemma could be achieved without employee concessions, Steel said.

And there are other challenges as well. For example, many problems with equipment and buildings have been dealt with on a piecemeal basis where replacement might have been a better approach, said Donna Vickers, interim chief financial officer.

Council member Deborah Robertson said Rialto will likely be looking at layoffs in the future.

“We can’t keep dipping into reserves and the reserves are not going to sustain us past 2013,” she said.

“We are going to have to do things a little smarter, a little more efficient,” she said.

She suggested that council members team with staff members to develop a more detailed plan to bring costs down.

Councilman Ed Palmer said he’d like to see staff come up with more inventive ways to save money.

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