Line-item veto

Chico City Manager Greg Jones gave his bosses an unenviable task. He presented the City Council with a gloomy 10-year forecast, then unspooled 54 options to address the $56.7 million deficit ($100 million with a new policing plan). The full council promptly sent his list to the Finance Committee, so now it’s Mary Flynn, Scott Gruendl and Larry Wahl’s headache.

Jones did not prioritize the options. Many of them don’t even have dollar figures attached. This makes it difficult to mix and match alternatives … difficult, but not impossible. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the proposals, some of which I grouped:

1/4 percent sales-tax increase to 7.5 percent—yes; we need money for services ($4.8 million annually)

5 percent TOT increase to 15—yes; people stay here regardless ($1M)

$5 parking-fine increase to $20—yes ($130K)

$20 business-license processing fee—yes ($108K)

City facility-use fee—no; they’re our buildings

Multi-year licenses—no; public needs safeguards

Increase Uniform Fire Code inspections—yes; see above (unknown fines)

Cell towers on city property—yes (unknown rents)

Corporate sponsorship of parks—no; who wants Microsoft Annie’s Glen?

Eliminate general fund contributions to development for private projects and maintenance districts—yes ($273K-$530K)

Change retirement benefits for non-safety and new employees—yes (TBA)

Reduce City Hall hours—yes, in conjunction with work-hour measures below ($2,900 per hour in salaries)

Trim overtime—yes ($1M or more)

Reduce city’s health-insurance contributions for employees’ policies—yes ($4.6M or more)

Freeze cost-of-living raises for a year—no; employees shouldn’t bear the whole brunt

Eliminate community agency and library funding—no; we get bang for our 700,000 bucks

Delete grant-funded jobs when grant ends—no, unless employee wants to leave anyway

Delete jobs vacant more than a year—yes

Restructure internal services into a matrix organization—yes, assuming staffers can work interdepartmentally (unknown)

Privatize airport—yes, if someone wants it ($200K)

Trim work weeks with voluntary flex hours, job sharing and fewer hours—yes (unknown)

Freeze management merit pay—yes; Jones already did this himself ($300K)

“Golden handshakes” and returning to ’04-’05 staffing through attrition—no; this city is growing, not shrinking

Implement fleet utilization study—yes ($250K)

Relocate fire stations for six-station coverage—no; No. 7 is key to the Northwest Chico Specific Plan, and this spread-out is penny-wise/pound-foolish

City Hall holiday furlough Dec. 24-Jan. 2—yes ($95K)

Employee donations to city for tax write-offs instead of pay cuts—yes; if they’re willing to do it, why not? (unknown)

Litigation indemnification by developers—yes, unless the city is found at fault (unknown)

Cancel Cohasset Road widening—yes ($13.3M of RDA)

Disperse police to field locations rather than build a new HQ—yes ($15M-$20M of RDA)

My categorical no’s: 1/2 percent sales tax and 2 percent TOT increases; bonds/certificates/notes; photo-enforced red lights; sell city land; mandatory vacations; delay replacing major equipment; layoffs; cancel fire station No. 6.

My yeses would free up at least $12.8 million per year in operations and save around $30 million in RDA expenditures.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!