Update 3:47 p.m.: Dixon City Manager Jim Lindley explains that the $1.8 million difference between the city's revenue streams and its appropriations is due to the fact that the city does not include accumulated dollars in special funds as well as grant funding for special projects into its revenue totals.
"The budget shows $29.9 million revenue, and then it shows $31.7 million in appropriations, so the confusion is the difference in that," Lindley said. "There are several accounts that we have accumulated funds in some cases three or four years and now we are getting ready to spend them on projects ... that can't be counted in revenue. We are talking a little over $2 million."
The projects include capital improvement and parks projects, most notably the Overpass Project on Parkway Boulevard, Lindley said. While the money to fund the projects is not included in the revenue from all the city's existing revenue streams, the cost of the projects is included in the appropriations.
"It looks like you are spending more money than you have," Lindley said. "That’s why we have a balanced budget."
Previously: It was a night full of dollar figures, but one of those figures stood out when it came to adopting the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.
At issue was the cost that the city incurs from Dixon firefighters’ overtime at more than $300,000.
“I think that the large focus still must be on the fire department,” Councilman Michael Ceremello said during last night’s meeting of the Dixon City Council. “Nobody is saying that the fire department people don’t work hard, don’t work a lot of hours, but it’s not addressing how we reduce over $300,000 in overtime that is a large concern. To sit here and play fiddle and feel sorry for people is the wrong thing to do. The only method for addressing this is to increase our volunteer contingent.”
The issues of staffing, overtime and other fire-department-related budgetary items were discussed at a special budget workshop held on May 24. Ceremello advocated both during that meeting and last night for the to develop a more robust volunteer firefighter program.
Currently, the department is run as a hybrid crew with 18 full-time firefighters and 15 volunteers. Ceremello said that the addition of several volunteer firefighters was the way to close the overtime gap for the city.
The budget that the city’s Finance Director and Technology Director Joan Michaels-Aguilar presented to the city council last night contains a balanced General Fund. However, if taken into account all of the city’s funds, the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 contains $29.9 million in revenue, while containing $31.7 million in appropriations.
The General Fund is the city’s lifeblood. It’s out of this fund that the city manages to pay for its vital services. The Dixon Fire and Police Departments account for the lion’s share of the portion of the General Fund allocated to labor costs (78 percent of the General Fund goes to these costs).
The police department takes up 31 percent of that amount, while the fire department is allocated 25 percent. To help offset its labor costs, the fire department is currently applying for two grants. The grants would allow the department to hire three full-time firefighters and make improvements to its volunteer program.
The grants do not address the problem, Ceremello said.
“We have a place in the county called Solano Community College and they do have a training program for volunteers and I have been speaking to those people and they have been applying in San Francisco, Napa, why is it that we can’t get them to volunteer here?” Ceremello asked. “ I’m not going to balance the budget on the backs of other departments. I’m not telling this fire department that we need to cut their hours, other than overtime hours. I think that when you have regular firefighters making almost as much as the chief is making, there’s a problem there. Either we are going to say we are going to pay the overtime or we are going to address the situation.”
Ceremello said he would agree to adopt the budget if the rest of the council agreed to direct Chief Aaron McAlister to look into expanding the volunteer program.
Councilman Thom Bogue said that he didn’t feel that the minimal staffing level should be comprised of volunteer firefighters.
“You would use volunteers to help maintain a more full and complete department,” Bogue said.
Councilman Rick Fuller also raised some concerns.
“Some of the reasons they don’t volunteer is that there are two-income families,” Fuller said. “It’s difficult to get them to volunteer. The community college provides people who are in training but they are in training, they are not trained up, they can’t go out and serve on a full fire crew.”
Fuller also raised some liability issues if an untrained firefighter were to be injured in the line of duty while serving in Dixon.
“I don’t think we can ask the fire department to solve their overtime problem right now and completely solve it until they can figure out what is going to be the process for them coming up with more volunteers,” Fuller said.
Mayor Jack Batchelor said that the chief is already running a hybrid program and that he is confident that the grants will come through and help solve their overtime problem.
The budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 passed without Ceremello’s request by a margin of 4-1, with Ceremello casting the lone dissenting vote.
Take a look at the staff report attached to this story for a full run-down of the budget