City to Delay Spending on Public Works Projects

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In a scramble to implement cost-saving solutions, the Berkeley City Council will consider deferring capital improvement projects to offset a portion of the city's $1.8 million deficit that extends through June 30.

The city will save about $813,500 by delaying funding for three large projects maintained by the city's Department of Public Works - which is responsible for upkeep of physical assets and infrastructure - until fiscal year 2012, as outlined in the city's revised fiscal year 2011 budget.

Postponed projects include bike and pedestrian programs, street rehabilitation and storm response and maintenance services.

Funding for all three capital improvement projects will be delayed until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. While street rehabilitation projects were already scheduled to occur after that date, implementation of the bike and pedestrian programs and storm response projects will be pushed back, according to the city's Budget Manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons.

"We just know that we're not going to have to write checks until after July," said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

Clunies-Ross added that deferred spending will "solve the cash flow problem" for this budget cycle and help the city recover revenue losses stemming largely from decreased property and sales taxes, both of which are sensitive to the economic climate.

Allocation of funds for the projects will be finalized when the city is expected to adopt its new biennial budget on June 28.

"This happens in regular budget years, even when there is no big drop (in revenue)," Clunies-Ross said.

To balance overall decreased revenue with total expenditure, the city has also implemented a range of short-term cost saving measures.

Freezing vacant positions throughout city departments, excluding fire and police, will save the city about $1 million while employee "give backs" - voluntary non-paid days off - have already accounted for about $1.7 million in savings.

The department itself - which staffs 301 employees - has coped with difficult economic times by freezing 12 vacancies, accumulating to about $2.3 million in savings for fiscal year 2011.

Reduced services and unfilled vacancies have proven favorable over increased layoffs while attempting to close the budget gap, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said at a press briefing in February.

However, drastic measures, including city layoffs, seem inevitable.

In the past two years, 130 city employee positions have been eliminated. Seven more are slated for termination and 14 employees face pay cuts or job transfers, according to Kamlarz.

Until a final biennial budget is approved, the council will evaluate the impacts of both reduced services and staff layoffs as the city enters into a projected $11 million shortfall for all funds next year.


Yousur Alhlou covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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