By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
Faced with the prospect of possibly having to shut down the City of Stanton in three years for lack of funds, the City Council Tuesday night told City Manager Carol Jacobs to come up with a plan to trim $1 million from the municipal budget for the coming year.
Meeting in a special late afternoon session, members of the council heard the grim news from Jacobs and Terri Marsh, administrative services director.
The combination of a still-wounded economy and Gov. Jerry Brown’s successful efforts to eliminate redevelopment agencies has put Stanton in a severe financial bind.
“We’ll go back to the county” as an unincorporated community, warned Mayor Pro Tem David Shawver. “We’ll have two sheriff’s deputies patrolling the whole town, no parks, no recreation, no graffiti removal.”
At the current pace, the city’s cash reserves will run out in 2016 unless Stanton balances its budget with either new revenues or more cuts. The city is projected to run a $2.38 million deficit that year. Already 11 employees have been let go, and the new round of reductions will mean more layoffs.
“At this point, we can’t cut more expenses without cutting people,” said Jacobs.
Not everything is bleak. An increase in the utility user tax, if approved by voters in June, would help close the gap, and Jacobs suggested that there are some “potential new revenue sources” that might develop soon. Additionally, the economy could improve enough over the next three years to bring in more sales tax revenue and raise property values, which would mean more property tax.
A major factor in the city’s fiscal mess is the rising cost of public safety. Stanton contracts with the County of Orange for its police and fire services, and those costs are rising annually while municipal income falls. According to Jacobs, those “protective services” amount to 76 percent of the city outlays.
In the new fiscal year, Stanton’s bill for fire and police protection is expected to rise by $189,000. “That’s an increase without any additional service,” said Jacobs.
The $1 million cut is based on the possibility that after a year, the city’s financial situation will get better, not worse.
By dierction of the council, city staff will come back with some specific proposals on how to achieve that $1 million reduction at a study session meeting scheduled on April 17 at 5 p.m.