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September 4, 2012 > Letter to the Editor: Strengthening the City of Fremont's Budget

Letter to the Editor: Strengthening the City of Fremont's Budget

Submitted By Fred Diaz, Fremont City Manager

The City of Fremont has taken proactive and bold steps to avoid a financial crisis that has plagued some California cities-some of which have declared bankruptcy. After several years of budget shortfalls and painful decisions that have impacted the community and our workforce, Fremont is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. As a result of many strategic decisions over the past several years, successful labor negotiations in Fiscal Year 2011/12, and implementation of the Council-adopted Strategic Fiscal Sustainability Action Plan and new Budget Principles, resources are once again becoming available to help address the City's long list of unmet needs.

In March 2011, the City engaged an outside firm, Management Partners, to conduct a strategic fiscal sustainability study and develop recommendations to allow services to be provided within the City's projected resource capacity. Their report, which was presented to the City Council on July 26, 2011, identified ways to reduce costs and increase revenue to better align annual expenditures with current revenues. In addition, the study presented 33 recommendations with suggested implementation timeframes. The entire study can be found on the City's website at www.Fremont.gov/FiscalSustainabilityStudy.

The City Administration took an aggressive action plan forward to the City Council that laid out the steps and the timelines for implementation of several of the recommendations. To date, we have made across the board compensation decreases that were achieved through salary reductions and additional retirement (CalPERS) contributions, and we now provide lower retirement and retiree medical benefits for new employees. We have also outsourced park maintenance and landscaping to the private sector, implemented a new Police patrol schedule that has reduced overtime, converted two Public Safety positions to lower-cost professional civilian positions, and contracted with an auto parts company to run the City's Vehicle Maintenance Parts Room. After nearly one year of implementation, we are seeing modest increases above what was originally projected with these changes as well as other changes we've made. We continue evaluating our service delivery models and are looking at ways to increase revenue. A cost allocation/fee study is under way to revise the City's Master Fee Schedule and we are exploring the consolidation of police dispatch with the cities of Newark and Union City.

Fremont is on a path toward a sustainable future and a budget that will preserve sustainable levels of our reserves; however, there is still more work to be done. There continue to be critical unmet needs we must address. Some of the important investments that still need funding include improving the maintenance of our capital assets, such as community centers and parks; improving the condition of our streets; opening Fire Station No. 11 in the Industrial area; adding seven to 10 police officers; and prefunding our retiree medical obligations.

The City of Fremont has long prided itself on being a lean organization, making the most of the resources entrusted to us. The prolonged recession has forced us to make hard choices about which services to provide to the community, and how to provide those services. Fiscal discipline and wise stewardship over many years have made it possible for the City to take a balanced approach as we strategically reset our service levels. The Fremont City Council, City staff, and the community must continue working together to move Fremont forward. Our strong partnership will enable us to effectively meet the challenges ahead.

Fred Diaz
City Manager
City of Fremont
3300 Capitol Avenue, Building A
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 284-4000
fdiaz@fremont.gov

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