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Claremont City Manager Releases Budget Proposal to Council

— With a change in the city’s fiscal year scheduled to take effect July 1, the administration is proposing a $7.7 million transitional budget for the six months beginning Jan. 1 and a $14.86 million budget for the new fiscal year.

The full year budget represents an increase of $400,000, or 2.76 percent, from this year.

If the City Council, which received the budget proposals yesterday and will begin its review Nov. 14, adopts both budgets as presented, the municipal tax rate of $12.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation won’t change for the supplemental budget, but would increase 39 cents to $13.24 for the 12-month budget, adding $58 in a year in taxes on a $150,000 home.

Unlike last year, when the City Manager Guy Santagate’s budget proposed six layoffs — four positions were cut — this budget has no layoffs.

“That is a major accomplishment,” Santagate said yesterday in an interview in his office with Finance Director Mary Walter. “I was dreading (layoffs).” The budget does cut one position at the library, but adds one in police communications to handle increased volume.

“I think we are on target with this,” Santagate said about the budget.

“We are hoping the economy picks up, like everyone else, but we’ve lost four years on the development side.” There is no money in the budget for employee raises because the city and unions remain deadlocked over negotiations with no prospects for a resolution, the city manager said. There have been no raises for four years.

With the new community center expected to open after the first of the year, the recreation budget is up about $420,000, or 77 percent, with recreation revenues projected to increase $375,000 to offset most of the expense increase. Electricity, fuel oil and labor account for a large part of the expense increase.

Walter said once the budget is approved, they will begin soliciting memberships for the new community center. For the supplemental budget, Walter projects $220,000 in revenues from memberships and user fees.

With the closing of the outdoor pool and the kinderfest program at Arrowhead, the Parks department’s budget is dropping $114,000, or 26 percent. There is $50,000 in the six-month budget for demolition of the outdoor pool, which did not open this summer because of leaks.

Other increases include: assessing, up $65,000 or 35 percent; police, up $99,000, or 4 percent, and fire, up $151,000, or 7.4 percent. Among the decreases were the library, down $58,000, or 12.5 percent, and cemetery, down $43,000.

The $400,000 overall spending increase is the result of small increases in different line items, Walter said.

“Retirement and insurance, that is what most of it is,” Walter said.

According to a letter from Santagate to the nine-member council, the city is projected to pay more than $3 million in retirement and health costs in the budget beginning July 1. That is an increase of nearly $250,000 from the current year.

“Thirty percent of the $10 million raised through property taxes is for retirement and health,” Santagate said yesterday.

The supplemental budget is being partially funded with the quarterly tax bill that will be due April 1 and bring in an estimated $6.1 million.

With the change in the fiscal year, the city will also switch to quarterly billing.

Santagate describes the full-year budget as “realistic” and “doable.” “If there are no big surpries, we’ll get through,” he said.

No capital improvement projects are proposed in the budget.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.