Town Manager offers bleak outlook on Town budget
You wouldn’t have heard the refrain of “Home on the Range” at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council, for plenty of discouraging words were heard inside Suite Z.
Interim Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez (MMMartinez) warned that the Town faces a $2 million budget gap for 2011-2012.
This shortfall as a percentage of revenue is 13%.
For comparison’s sake, the state deficit represents about 18% of its $84.6 billion general fund.
For starters, MMMartinez has asked all Town departments to shave 10% off their budgets.
She is also asking NGO’s (non-governmental organizations such as Mammoth Lakes Housing and Mammoth Lakes Tourism largely funded by tax revenues collected by the Town) to also trim expenditures by 10%.
MMMartinez’s estimates do not reflect any financial obligations which may be incurred from settlement of the airport litigation.
The Town will end FY 2010-2011 with a $500,000 budget surplus. However, the whole of the surplus can be attributed to a one-time $577,000 payoff (the return of a deposit the Town made when it first instituted the Utility User Tax in 2003).
The UUT was also generating more than $300,000/year in revenue above and beyond debt service, meaning that’s a windfall no longer available to the Town.
As reported last week, the Town needs to begin saving about $350,000/year to get current with obligations owed the JPIA (Joint Powers Insurance Authority).
Negotiated and contractually obligated COLAs (cost-of-living-adjustments) as well as an increase in retirement and health costs promise to push overall labor costs up $350,000 next year.
*MMMartinez did say “the unions have stepped up to the plate are are willing to help” so there is hope some accommodation can be reached to mitigate the above.
The Town’s share of property tax revenue is expected to decline $150,000 next year.
As soon as the many impacts were enumerated, leaders of NGOs ranging from John Urdi to John Wentworth got up to lobby Council on behalf of their organizations.
As Urdi said, “Marketing and tourism is what’s gonna help dig us out of this hole.”
Behind the scenes, a number of scenarios are playing out. One such scenario would have Mammoth Lakes Housing swallowed by the Community Development Department.
Though CDD Director Wardlaw made it clear that he has no designs on MLH, he did say that many CDDs around the state incorporate housing as one of the services they provide. “Could it [housing] be administered by Town Staff?” he asked rhetorically. “Sure.”
In the realm of thinking creatively, Leigh Gaasch suggested that Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles also be tasked with some code compliance, since he’s out there looking at dumpsters anyway.
Mayor Harvey said that as a matter of fact, Searles does carry a citation book.
Town Manager MMMartinez also brought up the idea of paying a code compliance officer a percentage of fines collected – possibly a way of minimizing a base salary by offering incentives as a carrot.
The Town did smartly award a bid for the publication of its legal notices to The Sheet.
Town records showed that when The Sheet won the bid from the Fifty Center last year, its publication costs dropped by two-thirds.
The next special budget meeting is scheduled for May 25.