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Sam Ramon budget hearing draws one resident

Final budget vote set for May 28

People must be pretty happy with San Ramon's budget process.

That was the general consensus after a community meeting Wednesday night to get resident input on San Ramon's budget brought out just one resident.

The meeting, at the Alcosta Senior and Community Center, was canceled after city workers and Mayor Bill Clarkson waited for about 30 minutes in the hope a crowd would materialize.

The lone participant, Bob duPont, didn't even have a gripe. The former school board member said he just wanted to see what was going on.

"I thought I should pay a little more attention," duPont said. "I think the city's doing a pretty good job."

Clarkson had the same impression.

"I think it's an indication of how the staff has handled the budget process," he said. "This is the third or fourth time we've had a forum to talk about the budget. It's been very transparent."

San Ramon has had three budget workshops at council meetings, as well as a first community budget input session and open goal setting session that addressed budget issues. Both of those were held in January.

City officials were prepared to talk budget numbers to the hoped-for crowd, with a 58-page presentation, which notes San Ramon is trying to maintain services while dealing with a 52 percent population increase between 2002 and 2012. The presentation said it's not realistic to try to continue its current level of service without additional revenues.

San Ramon has already made some tough choices, maintaining hiring and pay freezes and issuing employee furloughs, along with rebidding contract and refinancing its debt.

City staff was asked to come up with cuts, and did so, creating a list of more than $5 million in potential savings. So far, City Council has cut 32 items included in that list for savings of more that $890,000.

Other cities, meanwhile, have begun replacing employees let go during the recession and restoring some services cut during that time.

But unlike those cities, San Ramon has a strong commitment to savings, with 50 cents of every dollar socked away in reserves. Currently, it has $39 million, up $2.1 million from the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Some city employees will be offered early retirement under a plan approved in March by City Council, and San Ramon recently received some good news, thanks to a slow but steady growth in revenue and less-than-projected spending.

A mid-year report presented to the city's finance committee said San Ramon's general fund "is projected to show better than anticipated revenue sources, with a draw down of reserves now projected to be $1.5 million, compared to a $2.5 million original budget estimate."

The city will hold two review sessions for the budget, on May 13 and 14, with a final vote set for May 28.

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