Monday, June 23, 2008

Vallejo council to discuss budget cuts

Vallejo city officials will look at two integral and diametric financial issues during Tuesday's council meeting.

A $223 million city budget, $7 million less than last year's, and a $330 million cancer treatment center for Mare Island are both set for vote.

The city Redevelopment Agency's nearly $6 million budget for 2008-09 will also face council review.

Councilwoman Joanne Schivley said the council's recent focus has been the cash-strapped budget.

City departments presented their proposed spending plans Tuesday and early Wednesday in a meeting that lasted more than eight hours. Vice mayor Tom Bartee said he expects the review to resume Tuesday.

"We'll still have more budget discussion on Tuesday," Bartee said Friday. "There were a number of questions that were asked by council, and staff was working on it this week."

In a report released Thursday, city staff wrote that they did not support many programs the council had hoped to augment before the final budget adoption.

Instead, assistant city manager Craig Whittom and Assistant Finance Director Susan Mayer suggested the council schedule a follow-up budget review for October, when fiscal information from this year would be available.

"I think it's absolutely amazing our finance department was even able to do a budget" in the short time period, Schivley said. "A budget isn't a case of pass it and forget. We will be looking at it quarterly and making adjustments Advertisementas is necessary.

"Considering our present situation ... until we know what the bankruptcy judge's decision is regarding our employee contracts, it isn't going to make too much difference what we do with the budget."

A federal bankruptcy judge will rule on the question of Vallejo's solvency. The city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection May 23. The judgment will probably mold the city's budget — whether further cuts are needed or more funds can be returned to quality-of life-issues, Schivley said. A court hearing for challenges to the city's insolvency is scheduled for Friday in Sacramento.

The council also will consider an item often highly praised in relation to the city's financial future. Officials for Touro University's proposed cancer treatment and research center, fresh from city Planning Commission approval, will seek council approval for site development and related items.

The proposed center would use advanced particle beam cancer treatment and research, the first of its kind in the country. The development would be phase one of Touro's two-phase plan for Mare Island's north end.

"I'm really excited about the Touro project and the huge opportunity that presents to the city," Bartee said. "We're looking at just the agreement at this point. There's plenty of other huge hurdles."

Bartee said the developers will still be faced with environmental impact reports, environmental cleanup and plenty of infrastructure additions.

Schivley said some of her ongoing cancer center questions were answered at the last Planning Commission meeting. Schivley said she hopes to ensure that officials from the university and island master developer Lennar Mare Island work together to modernize the island's infrastructure. She said she hopes the university does not extend its nonprofit status to the cancer center, because that would mean a loss of needed property taxes.

The City Council will hold a closed session with legal counsel Tuesday at 5 p.m., followed by a special meeting to review the Vallejo Housing Authority's budget at 6:45 p.m. The regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in City Council chambers.

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