Redwood City may reopen its downtown fire station which has been browned out for nearly four years due to previous budget cuts.
Fire Chief Jim Skinner is asking the City Council to allocate a couple hundred-thousand dollars in its upcoming budget to reinstate Engine No. 9 by hiring one additional full-time firefighter/engineer and allowing overtime hours equivalent to three other full-time employees. Bringing the engine back online will “increase reliability and availability for truck nine” and provide water for District Nine which is downtown and east of El Camino Real, Skinner told the council at its Monday night budget study session.
Skinner said he needs $202,742 for the new firefighter/engineer and $667,590 to cover the overtime hours. He also said the department will implement a one-year pilot program to track workers’ compensation costs and injury types, evaluate unscheduled leave, analyze overtime usage and evaluate the actual cost of reinstating Engine No. 9. The council will get a report back in six months.
The city browned out Engine No. 9 in August 2010 but Skinner said public safety was never jeopardized. The majority of the calls are medical rather than fire and the city began implementing a two-man rescue squad vehicle for those.
The council will consider Skinner’s request along with other departments, such as two new police officers, as part of its budget adoption and approval at the June 23 meeting.
The proposed balanced budget includes $98.6 million in the general fund and $25 million for capital improvements. The city will have $25.7 million in reserves, which is 26.1 percent, and fluctuate through 2019 when reserves are projected to be $22.9 million right at the 20 percent policy.
The proposed budget recommended using $6 million in surplus revenue to help pay down the unfunded liability for workers’ compensation and create a dedicated workers’ compensation analyst position to manage claims.
City Manager Bob Bell said the goal is figuring out with a growing city how to continue meeting current needs and future demands.
The Redwood City budget is projected to stay balanced for the foreseeable future but retired finance director Brian Ponty, who is working on an interim basis, told the council that increasing costs for public safety and workers’ compensation remain concerns as does the next economic downturn.
Economic expansion is five years in and typically runs in five- to seven-year cycles, Ponty said.
“The one question we’re not able to answer is ... when is the next recession going to hit and how severe is it going to be and which of our revenue streams is going to be impacted,” Ponty said.
Areas of concern remain sales tax, available land for car dealerships which contribute significantly to the budget, retirement contributions, the Docktown enterprise fund and workers’ compensation costs.
Ponty recommended transferring $50,000 from the general fund to the Docktown fund this year to keep it solvent and believes it may need $90,000 next year and for the future as residents leave and aren’t replaced.
The budget works on five-year projects that may or may not come to pass such as secured property taxes going up at least 5 percent in 2014-15, jumping to 11.5 percent the year after and then dropping back to 3.6 percent and 4 percent because the city will lose money due to the so-called “triple flip” in which the state takes money.
Employee contributions will also substantially increase in 2016-17 and 2018-19.
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