Following negotiations with employee unions plus austerity measures, Antioch officials were pleased that they bought a bit of breathing room. They were able to chip away at a general fund deficit spending amount that a few months ago totaled more than $1 million, reducing it to a little more than $300,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
As revenues dropped sharply following the housing crisis, Antioch has worked to get its expenses in line, but the process has been painful. Currently, 145 city positions are vacant – a 36-percent vacancy rate, according to City Manager Jim Jakel. Employees have also taken voluntary, as well as negotiated, pay cuts.
“It’s pretty remarkable to be in this position,” Jakel said. “Just a few years ago, we had revenues of $47 million and we now have revenues of $33 million. We’re getting close. There’s still some work to be done.”
Jakel and City Council members expressed relief as the budget was passed. Jakel outlined several successes in the draft budget, such as significant savings in liability insurance and workers compensation. In the upcoming fiscal year, the city will also see a savings of roughly $500,000 from employees paying into their pension. The city will also continue to not carry earthquake insurance, saving roughly $150,000.
However, projections don’t look as rosy for the budget for 2012-13, when the concessions made with some employees’ unions expire and pay raises are due. Right now, Antioch is projected to spend $1.8 million more than it takes in for that fiscal year. If the city continues at its current pace, the reserve will go from roughly $5.4 million on June 30 of this year to $3.3 million on June 30, 2013.
City Finance Director Dawn Merchant noted that while Antioch will still need to make budget cuts in order to be solvent in 2013, no new sources of revenue are apparent at this moment.
“It wasn’t 180 days ago that we were looking bankruptcy right in the face,” City Councilman Brian Kalinowski said. “Although the pressure valve has been released some, 2013 is no joke.”
The uncertain future of redevelopment funds could also wreak havoc with the city’s budget, as that money pays for the Community Development Block Grant program and staff time for the Marina Agency. Revenues from the hotel tax have plummeted, meaning that tough decisions must be made regarding programs that receive money from that source, such as the Antioch Historical Society.
In the draft budget, Jakel noted that several things will need to be done in the face of economic hardship. City officials plan to continue taking a proactive approach regarding Antioch’s water rights, encourage job relocation to Antioch and pursue water transit options.
City officials will meet later this month to brainstorm options to balance the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
“I feel really good about where we are today,” City Councilman Gary Agopian said. “I think that we have stability – but it’s momentary stability. What I’m very concerned about are the projections for the future. We don’t want to lose any progress that we’ve made on this budget.”