OCEANSIDE — The City Council is looking into consolidating its council aide positions into one staff position to serve all council members as a means to save money before approving the city’s final budget for the following year.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 will be brought before the council for final approval on June 3.
Councilmember Chris Rodriguez suggested consolidating the council aides to one staff position or possibly reducing hours at the council’s April 27 budget workshop.
He considers having a council aide for each member a luxury, and said by his math the city could save “close to half a million dollars in council aide salaries and benefits” if the positions were cut.
“I have time to make it work,” Rodriguez said, regarding cutting council aide positions.
Deputy Mayor Jack Feller noted he won’t have an aide after the first of the year and agreed that having one for everyone “seems like a luxury.”
Councilmember Esther Sanchez was the only member completely opposed to reducing the number of council aides.
“I for one need my aide,” Sanchez said.
Before bringing back the proposed budget for the council’s final approval, staff will conduct a cost analysis of potential savings to the General Fund if council aides were consolidated into one staff position, in addition to reviewing the city’s current vacant positions and service impacts that have been caused by those vacancies.
City staff has already revised the proposed budget from what was presented to the council back in January. City Manager Deanna Lorson said last-minute impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic had required a “complete reworking” of the proposed budget in the last 30 days.
The revised budget projects the city receiving about $158.27 million in revenue, reduction of more than $8.5 million from what was projected in January.
Expenditures also dropped by about $8 million to $157.66 million, leaving only about a $610,000 surplus for the city, as opposed to the $1.31 million surplus projected in January.
Staff used fiscal year 2019-2020 as a base with a 10% reduction in maintenance and operations to determine next year’s budget.
According to Lorson, the General Fund budget does not contain any money used from Measure X, maintains service levels, meets all reserve obligations and continues cost containment efforts.
“Staff feels like this is a prudent budget given the current situation,” Lorson said.
Some of those cost containment efforts include freezes on recruitment and replacement hiring and employee travel for conferences or training, a reduction of maintenance and operations budgets by 10% and contracting services in lieu of permanent positions.
“We have compared our budget to other cities,” Lorson said. “The cuts that we’re seeing are generally in line with the kinds of cuts that other cities are receiving.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son