ORINDA -- The city will ask employees to help close the remainder of what began as a nearly $400,000 budget gap for the coming fiscal year.

Staff members have whittled down that deficit to about $68,000 over the past month, and City Manager Janet Keeter said she will meet next week with the employees union to look for ways to bridge the remaining gap.

"We've had some preliminary discussions with them," Keeter said. A union leader said employees are willing to make concessions as long as jobs are preserved.

Rising costs combined with flat revenues left Orinda, which prepares two-year budgets, with a $384,651 deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year and a $306,399 gap the following year.

The city expects the cost of its contract with the county Sheriff's Office to rise by nearly $77,000 next year and is not planning to receive $100,000 in state money used in past years to fund an officer position.

Salaries and benefits for city workers will rise slightly, and the city anticipates nearly $50,000 in added costs next year related to sports fields and a maintenance facility at the Wilder housing development site.

A good portion of the deficit disappeared after more accurate calculations of salary and benefit costs. The city also proposes to eliminate the police dog program, saving $22,000 annually, and to lay off an associate planner, saving $70,200 in the coming year and $118,497 in the following year.


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After all is said and done, Orinda is still looking at a $67,778 deficit for 2011-12 and $141,176 for 2012-13.

Employees "would be willing to consider concessions if it means saving jobs and the associated services," said Peter Finn, Vice President of Teamsters Local 856, which represents most staffers.

But he wondered why the city needs to lay off a planner given its ample reserve fund -- about $6.4 million, or roughly two-thirds of Orinda's operating budget.

"A question that we have yet to get answered from city administration is why layoffs are necessary when the city is holding $6.5 million in reserve," he said.

The planning staff cut reflects a decline in workload, Keeter said, a trend caused by the economy that's not unique to Orinda.

"Our reserves that we have are for one-time expenses and emergencies," she said. "They're not for day-to-day general operational expenses, and that's the bottom line."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.

If you go

What: Orinda City Council meeting
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Orinda Library auditorium, 26 Orinda Way