San Ramon is looking at ongoing deficits until 2018, and city officials want people to help trim the budget. To help gather resident input and attack the deficit early, the city has planned a series of budget workshops.
City Manager Greg Rogers said this is the earliest city officials have begun the process, which usually begins in spring.
"We're basically doing some prudent advance planning," Rogers said. "What we did was to ask departments to prepare a 10 percent cut list."
San Ramon spent $1.9 million more than it's expected to bring in during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Revenues were $49.2 million, and expenditures were $51.5 million, with an additional draw down of $500,000 for health care.
Without cuts or additional revenue, next year the draw down of reserves nearly doubles -- climbing to $3.6 million.
The trend of drawing on the city's reserves is predicted to continue through June 30, 2018, with the city's deficit peaking in the 2014/15 fiscal year. San Ramon's deficit will hit $4.7 million that year, which includes another half-million dollars for health care and $1.5 million dollars to pay down bond debt.
Without changes, San Ramon's reserves will drop to about $10.9 million by the 2017/18 fiscal year, according to a report presented to City Council. In the 2011/12 fiscal year, it was at $33.5 million and has since dropped $2 million to $31.5 million, a trend that's expected to continue for the next five years.
That report also shows that investment income has dropped from an average of about $2 million a year between the 2006/07 and the 2008/09 fiscal years. For the last few years, San Ramon has brought in about $100,000 annually from investments.
Sales tax is also down about $500,000 from a peak of $9 million in 2008/09 to $8.5 million in the current fiscal year. That's up from 2009/10, when sales tax revenue fell to $6.7 million during the recession. It's been steadily climbing since, and is predicted to hit $10.1 million by 2017/18.
At a recent meeting, staff presented a list of 118 items that could be cut from the budget, ranging from the large -- $200,000 in earthquake insurance that's been dubbed "optional" to the small -- $150 a year for newspapers.
That list totals more than $5.3 million, but Rogers said City Council will have to decide how much it wants to cut, whether, for example, to cut the entire $3.6 million draw down in its reserves predicted for 2013-2014, or some smaller part easing into additional cuts gradually.
"What it is is a list to draw from," Rogers said.
City officials have been clear that all of what's been proposed -- such as making homeowners pay for sidewalk repairs, saving $100,000 -- will not come to pass.
In addition to cuts, San Ramon officials could decide to raise revenues; among the proposals is a referendum to increase the city sales tax.
Rogers said at least a portion of additional revenue could come from raising fees, which the city held off on doing because of the recession.
City Council is set to work on its budget at its Jan. 8 and 22 meetings at council chambers, 2226 Camino Ramon. The city has also set tentative dates for a number of public budget workshops. One definite date is 7-9 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the San Ramon Community Center, 12501 Alcosta Boulevard.
Other meetings may or may not be held, depending on how quickly City Council can agree on cuts and revenue increases.