Facing an estimated budgetary shortfall of $1.3 million-$1.7 million due to estimated sales tax losses cause by the coronavirus pandemic, Sunset Valley City Council reduced its current general fund budget for fiscal year 2019-20 by $1.85 million.

Of the total, $825,000 represents budget cuts made by city staff since the beginning of April, as well as an additional cuts approved by council April 21. The city’s finance committee supported the most recent round of cuts.

"I believe that staff, the mayor and finance committee did an excellent job on finding areas where we could cut, and I would recommend that we approve the hard work that they did," Council Member Rudi Rosengarten said before motioning to approve the cuts April 21.

Budget cuts approved April 21 included:

  • $80,000 for upper Cougar Creek Tail work

  • $30,000 for the city website and directory

  • $30,000 for planning for the city’s Uplands tract

  • $30,000 for planning for the Homestead Park

  • $20,000 for a utility cost of service rate study

Additionally, $358,000 earmarked in the budget to replenish the city’s reserve will now be used in the general fund. Similarly, $452,000 in subsidies and $215,000 in utilities infrastructure funding will be reallocated to support city operations through the end of the fiscal year, according to city documents.

“We currently have 11.7 months of reserves,” Mayor Rose Cardona said. “This portion that is not moved into savings means we are choosing to keep that in our operating budge, which means we are in fact using our reserves starting now.”

Council Members Melissa Gonzales and Karen Medicus asked council to consider keeping the rate study on the current year’s budget. Because the study could help determine future utility rates and budgets, and because evaluating the study could take time, Medicus argued starting the study this year would be beneficial. However, the item was ultimately cut.

Prior layoffs

At City Council’s April 7 meeting, council made a motion to direct staff to make budget cuts that could total about $410,000. The motion included a directive to reduce personnel expenses by 10-15%.

As a result, six public works department positions were eliminated, as well as a member of the city’s administrative staff. Those positions included the public works operations manager, administrative clerk, director and three maintenance technicians, as well as the city’s development permit coordinator. Two of those positions were already vacant prior to the cuts. Total savings through the action were $217,831.

Gonzales said April 21 that she believed the cuts ultimately made surpassed the 15% staff was directed by council to make and were closer to 23%. She said she was unhappy with the number of layoffs and felt that there was miscommunication about the item’s intent.

Cardona said that the staff cuts were above the 15%, but allowed the city to reduce other cuts that were being considered, including some employee benefits and insurance.

While not part of the approved motion April 21, Gonzales and Medicus asked that council consider rehiring some of the positions at a future date due to a possible excess in funds after cuts came in above the original $1.3 million-$1.7 million target range.