Visalia Braces for More Budget Cuts

VISALIA, Calif. Thanks to money from voter-approved Measure "R" and federal stimulus dollars, the City of Visalia has moved forward with many important transportation projects, including the Transit Center expansion and extending McAuliffe Avenue. But as city officials tally up declining property and sales tax monies, officials will still be dealing with a more than $2-million dollar deficit.

"It's a smaller deficit than we had last year and we try to manage it as the year goes along," said Visalia City Manager Steve Salomon.

One budget cutback the city won't consider is furloughing employees. The city had to halt firefighter furloughs this past December after an increase in fires and other emergency calls.

"We did furloughs this year. We're hoping to not do any furloughs next year and we're hoping to not lay anybody off."

Firefighters agreed to take a pay cut instead to make up for the furloughed time.

"Bottom line is we want to keep the community safe and have adequate resources to respond and I think we accomplished that," said Visalia Fire Chief Mike Nelson.

The city met with the Visalia Unified School District this week to go over each other's budget deficits for the next fiscal year. The school district is facing even deeper cuts with at least $5.7 million more lost in state funding. The cuts from the state total over $24-million dollars over a three year period.

"Because we had our reserves we were able to spend one-time monies in order to soften that landing we actually went through a public process to shrink our budget by 3% across the board," said Visalia Unified Administrator Robert Groeber.

Groeber says more layoffs are inevitable. The district has already increased class sizes and offered retirement incentives but more tough decisions will have to be made. "That's where we start with all of our discussions is how will this have the least impact on the children."

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