Chico's Budget Woes

Jun 6, 2013 8:05 PM

There are no more easy decisions.

That's the sentiment of top Chico officials who have been pouring over city finances for months.

This week, the news is out about how the city is likely going to have to tackle one of the city's worst fiscal times ever.

At issue is a $4.8 million dollar budget deficit that has to be wiped out for this coming fiscal year, beginning July 1st.

More than 50 layoff and displacement notices have been given out to certain employees this week.

City Manager Brian Nakamura is also proposing to cut police department personnel by 19 positions, 14 of which are vacant sworn officer positions.

The fire department would also have to hold off on filling five of its vacant positions and much stricter cost controls would become the norm under the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

So now for the next few weeks, city managers and the city council will have no choice but to face this fiscal issue head-on.

Action News reporter Ross Field spent the day speaking with city leaders to figure out how Chico got into this situation and what needs to be done for the city to dig itself out of the budget hole.

During Tuesday night's council meeting, Nakamura said this marks, "the darkest time for the city of Chico," and that means deeper, more serious cuts, to public services.

Chico City Manager Brian Nakamura held little back.

"The reality is, we as a city are going to be facing some really difficult economic times and we're going to have to make some really tough decisions," said Nakamura.

Facing a $4.8 million dollar budget defecit, the city manager called for dozens of positions to be cut and this is just the first step towards balancing the city's chronically ill budget and the fact is......

"That's going to impact the services that we provide our citizens," said Nakamura.

Among the proposed cuts, city employees in nearly every public service department, including the one's that directly affect the safety of the city's citizens.

"With public safety, our police and fire dept will continue to do the best we can, but unfortunately those are going to be impacted," added Nakamura.

The police department faces the largest number of staff reductions, 19, making up $1.1 million in proposed cuts.

The fire department would also have to hold off on filling five of its vacant positions. impacts will include the closure of an unknown fire station.

Impacts to the community will result in slower response times but Councilmember Sean Morgan says there is no other way to bring Chico out of the red and into the black.

"The cuts hurt, I understand the cuts, but if we don't do it, again, the other only road is insolvency. So have we been pushed in the corner and we don't have the options we'd like to have? Absolutely we have, but are we going to die? No, we're going to fight and we're going to come out on the other side," said Morgan.

Morgan said part of the blame? Putting off Chico's budget problem for several years.

"The challenge with the city of Chico is we put this off for far too long. Now we're in a position literally if we don't do what we're doing right now, we'll run out of cash in December and everyone will go home with an IOU," said Morgan.

"It's going to take time, it's going to take patience and perseverance and we're a very resilient community, we're a very opportunitistic community, we're looking forward to the future," said Nakamura.

The Chico City Council will continue to discuss the issue with an all-day budget study session on June 18th.


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