Tough cuts in store for Mammoth
Last September the Town of Mammoth may have thought it was hitting rock bottom when it had to lay off several of it top brass employees. Little did it know those were just the first steps on a very rocky road.
The Mammoth Lakes Town Council further cut Town infrastructure this week in order to make up a $2.8 million shortfall in the General Fund. The good news: the governmental body was able to come within $200,000 of closing that gap. The bad news: this is merely an interim budget and the worst is yet to come.
“We have a two-part problem,” explained Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht. “Phase one is dealing with the $2.8 million shortfall. Phase two will be dealing with the lawsuit.”
The Town is currently in the information-gathering portion of the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition settlement.
Of the $2.8 million shortfall, Council decided that about one third of it would be made up in employee layoffs. Out of many options presented by staff, it chose the elimination of positions from the police department, the Community Development Department and the Public Works Department, plus $150,000 in additional, yet to be determined personnel reductions.
Councilman Rick Wood pointed out that in the past few years the Town has gone from a staff of 130 employees to 79, with only 75 employees actually working because four of the positions are not currently filled.
“Reducing staff more will jeopardize our ability to function,” Wood confessed, before agreeing to the position eliminations.
The remaining two-thirds of the shortfall will come from reductions to contracts with entities such as Mammoth Lakes Housing and the High Sierra Energy Foundation, as well as reduction in services such as road rehabilitation and funding to local programs. Shifting some items away from the General Fund to other funding sources such as Measure A will also help close the gap.
These cuts will be concisely presented at a Special Meeting beginning at 4 p.m. in Suite Z on June 22, and the public will have the opportunity to comment.
At the end of Wednesday evening, Wilbrecht had each department head come to the podium to explain how the cuts would affect their department’s abilities to function.
As each head talked about the difficulties that would accompany additional depletions to staff, Wood took the stance that the unions could save the employees – if employees are willing to negotiate concessions to their benefits, they may be able to save some positions.
What’s on the table now
The following are the cuts that the majority of Council agreed to on Wednesday:
Elimination of three sworn positions in the police department: the traffic officer, one of the two MONET officers, and the school resource officer.
Elimination of one position in the Community Development Department, which CDD Director Mark Wardlaw says will increase the time it takes to obtain a building permit in Mammoth.
Elimination of one position in the Public Works Department, most likely a management position.
Additional personnel reductions of $150,000 that would most likely come from the Recreation Department. Council theorized that the Recreation Department could apply to Measure R instead.
Fund the airport sprung structure, a cost of $275,000, with the fund balance in Measure T rather than the General Fund.
Do not fund the ice rink/multi-use facility slab construction with General Fund dollars. Plan a smaller-scale project and apply for Measure R funds.
Fund structural improvements to the police station with the Capital Project Debt Service Fund.
Make 10 percent cuts to contracts with Mammoth Lakes Housing, Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, and Fishing Enhancement. Reduce funding for Local Programs and 2012 July 4 events by 10 percent, each.
Make a 15 percent cut to the contract with High Sierra Energy Foundation.
Cut $375,000 from the Road Rehabilitation budget and $125,000 set aside for the Sherwin Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Eliminate funding for the law library subscription.
Take $143,000 from the vehicle replacement fund, which is made up of Measure T dollars.
Take $88,000 from Measure T, essentially depleting this fund’s reserves, and use it for capital projects such as roads.
Fund the $215,000 air service subsidy with Measure A dollars.
What could be looming
Staff and Council continue to discuss using measures R and U for budget issues. On Wednesday morning staff sent out an addendum to the agenda that proposed, among other things, the elimination of General Fund support for Recreation and Parks Maintenance Programs. Management suggested shifting the nearly $1.2 million in expenses to Measures R and U.
The Recreation Commission took issue with this during its workshop with the Council just prior to the regular meeting. Commissioners reminded Council that people visit Mammoth for the recreation.
“If you don’t have revenue then you don’t have quality of life and you can’t pay off a lawsuit,” Commissioner Teri Stehlik said.
“But if your roof is leaking you should fix it before going out to dinner,” Wilbrecht replied.
The Commission also reminded Council that the voters had taken special care to use a two-thirds vote on these measures in order to ensure they could only be used for certain purposes, and therefore could repeal the measures if they chose.
“To use measures for other things is not a good idea,” said Commission Chair Bill Sauser. “We have to get voter buy-in or we’ll lose them [the measures] completely.” He suggested, if the Council were to go down that road that it craft a resolution that would transfer support of recreation back to the General fund once the lawsuit is paid off.