BY ALICIA ROBINSON
STAFF WRITER
arobinson@pe.com

Published: 12 June 2012 09:43 PM

As if to emphasize the differences in style between Riverside’s old and new leadership, City Manager Scott Barber used the annual budget hearing to deliver a detailed rebuttal of residents’ allegations of fiscal mismanagement and impropriety.

Barber, who became city manager in December, presented the council on Tuesday, June 12, with a $220.7 million general fund budget that spends $1 million more than it projects to take in, but it covers the shortfall with cash from the city’s roughly $40 million reserve fund.

The council recommended no changes to Barber’s proposal and set June 26 as the date they’ll formally adopt the budget.

But before Barber got into an explanation of next year’s budget and how it differs from this year’s, he and three department heads went point by point, listing council critics’ concerns and responding to them. The previous city manager, Brad Hudson, rarely responded to public criticisms; Barber laid out his answers with a Powerpoint presentation.

As one example, blogger Mary Shelton has chastised the council for putting city facilities such as fire stations and libraries at risk by using them as collateral for debt. City Chief Finance Officer Brent Mason said those assets make good collateral because lenders assume the city would be more motivated to avoid defaulting on the debt.

However, he said, even if the city defaulted, the lender may only use the facilities until the debt is resolved but may not foreclose and take them from the city.

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