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City manager proposes to level fund tax rate again 2010 spending plan down from '09

October 30, 2009
CLAREMONT – City Manager Guy Santagate released his budget to the city council this week and he's once again proposing level funding the amount to be raised by taxes.

Santagate said he's pleased with the budget, considering the tough economic climate in Claremont as well as the rest of the nation.

"We'll have the same tax rate in 2010 that we had in '09," he said. "That's good news because the city's portion of the tax rate went down by $1.07 this year."

With an anticipated general fund budget of $14,789,093 for '10, Santagate said the figure represents a "decrease of $133,798 in expenses over the 2009 adjusted budget."

There were some increases, but nothing unexpected.

"There are certain costs the city has no control over," said Finance Director Mary Walter.

An 8.3 percent increase in health care costs ($139,500), a 7.8 percent increase in Client Services in Welfare ($17,000), the city's share of the Draper's Corner project ($201,200), extra impact of "downshifting of state contribution to fire and police retirements ($38,545), and an additional week of payroll to account for a 53-week year ($130,620) accounted for the increases, totaling $526,865.

In a letter to each councilor accompanying his budget proposal, Santagate acknowledged the challenge is preparing this year's budget.

"With diminishing local and state revenues and increasing costs of services," he said, "it was a difficult budget year that required a number of cuts to balance the budget. However, we have been able to preserve the city's critical programs."

Santagate added that "the city council has made sound fiscal policy decisions that continue to provide a solid budget framework," such as "using one-time revenue for one-time costs, like street projects, as well as their support of the decision to level fund the budget since '06."

But in order to accommodate another level-funded budget, Santagate and Walter said it was "necessary to make cuts of $780,665 over the '09 approved budget," and that "if we had not done this, our increased expenditures coupled with loss of revenue would have increased the city portion of the 2010 tax rate by more than $1 per thousand [assessed value]."

Those cuts were made across the board, said Santagate, as opposed to any one program being cut altogether.

"We're confident that without unforeseen emergencies, we'll be able to continue to deliver the same services our residents rely on," he said.

The largest unknown variable, he said, may in fact hinge on whether the state decreases available funding again, but Santagate said he doesn't anticipate that will happen.

"If it does happen, communities across the state are going to be in a lot of trouble," he said. "It'll be something we all have to deal with, not just Claremont."

The budget year begins Jan. 1.

The council has until December 1 to approve a budget, and will hold three budget sessions next month. The regularly scheduled November council meeting will include an agenda item for budget discussion, and the final budget meeting of the month will also be a public hearing.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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