CONCORD -- The school crossing guard program was saved temporarily Tuesday night as city leaders passed a balanced budget and took large steps toward fixing a $3.5 million structural deficit in their 10-year plan.
The City Council voted unanimously to continue subsidizing the Mt. Diablo school district by paying $90,000 annually for 12 crossing guards at intersections across the city, while formalizing a plan to trim five school resource officers to two to cover the city's handful of high school campuses.
Concord will pay for the crossing guards this fiscal year, provide matching funds for half the cost the following year and end all payments in the third year.
The city plans to address the remaining $690,000 structural deficit in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The city was spared making additional cuts because of revenue from Measure Q, a half-cent sales tax increase passed by voters. Measure Q funds will be spread over the next decade to ease the city out of difficult economic times, while maintaining a 15 percent reserve.
In future years, the city is counting on funding through additional fees, such as an alarm and technology toll. Specifics on the fees will have to be ironed out, and the council will have to vote on those proposals. If they do not pass, the council would have to find other avenues to reduce the structural deficit.
After numerous budget hearings, the council came into Tuesday's meeting with a general idea
"That really bothers me," he said. "It's the one item of the stabilization measures I'm not comfortable with."
His colleague, Bill Shinn, said it was time for the school district to pick up its own tab.
"We cannot continue to be the policeman for the world," he said. "They need to get their act together and make it a priority for the district."
In the end, they compromised and decided to slowly phase out the subsidy.
The council did transfer three school resource officers to open patrol positions, leaving two school officers to watch over the city's five high school campuses, and even its middle schools. The move saved $540,000.
In addition, nonprofit youth sports groups will see the hourly rates for sports fields rise by $1 each year starting in 2013 until it reaches $10 per hour in 2017-18. Another notable change will be draining the moat and water feature surrounding the council chamber and Todos Santos Park stage, respectively.
The city will maintain the equipment to allow water to flow again during better economic times. The water elimination will save the city about $73,000 each year.
Finally, Camp Concord officially got its reprieve. While its closure would have saved the city $300,000 each year, strong community support saved the Lake Tahoe facility.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.