Council commits to nonprofit funding
Four "tier 1" nonprofit agencies will split $123,200 of city grant revenues, according to a lengthy review and ultimate agreement reached during a City Council budget workshop June 2.
The agreement continues funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, which will receive $51,040; the Sonoma Community Center, which will receive $26,400; Vintage House senior center, which is to receive 26,400; and the Sonoma Ecology Center, which gets $19,360.
The final amounts selected represented a 12 percent reduction over the current grant requests, which mirrored the amounts given in the 2010-11 budget. Council members chose the 12 percent reduction because that figure represents the reduction in general fund expenditures since the 2009-10 fiscal year.
While the council agreement on funding nonprofits was not an official action, City Manager Linda Kelly said she expected the decision to be formalized when the budget is adopted in coming weeks.
Moving on from nonprofit grants, the council took up the issue of closing a deficit now projected at $170,506, and that led through a lengthy and detailed analysis of potential cuts to what the city considers to be "non-essential services or programs."
The list of possible budget cuts included reducing the city prosecutor's budget, reducing or eliminating financial support for the Visitors Bureau's marketing program, reducing the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building free-day subsidy, reducing or eliminating subsidies to special events, notably the Sonoma Jazz-Plus music festival; cutting support for the Fourth of July parade and fireworks; reducing or eliminating funding for the Cultural and Fine Arts Commission's projects, including purchase of a Plein Air piece and the Student Creative Art Award; reducing some commission/committee meetings to a quarterly basis; eliminating the City Hall holiday lights and Christmas tree; canceling the Alcalde luncheon; even reducing the Grad Night donation, along with plaques and Sister City gifts.
As council members worked their way through the shopping list of potential cost savings, some cuts were instantly rejected.
Referring to the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show, Councilmember Ken Brown immediately quipped, "I ain't goin' near that one." Everyone on the council agreed.
The biggest cost-saving opportunity - a possible $100,000 savings - was challenged by audience members as being fiscal slight-of-hand. The reference was to a proposal to eliminate the general fund cost of irrigating city parks and open space - approximately $100,000 - and simply adding the cost to the rate base, meaning it would be paid by city water customers.
Because figures were not available to confirm how much that move would increase monthly water bills, city staff promised to return with hard figures at a subsequent budget meeting.
Another major savings would occur if the State Legislature decides to continue funding the popular COPS grant program, which provides $100,000 to the Sonoma Police Department to fund the community service officers (CSOs), who provide a wide range of services, including animal control and issuing parking citations.
The city's current deficit assumes the CSOs will continue to be employed, but that the city will swallow the cost. If the state reinvests in the program, the city's deficit would be $100,000 lower.
Totaling a list of hypothetical cuts, including adding city park irrigation to the public rate base, council members came up with a tentative total that would reducer the deficit by $131,000.
City staff will examine the possibility and consequences of the suggested cuts and report to the council at the next budget meeting on June 20.