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Impact small for Auburn in state’s new budget

Effect of service cuts to multiple agencies yet to be determined, officials say
By: Bruce Warren, Journal Staff Writer
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The state’s recently passed budget that includes cuts to education and social services will not heavily impact Auburn, according to City Manager Bob Richardson. “The level of detail on the budget released thus far indicates a relatively minor impact to the city,” Richardson said Friday. “However, we still need to determine if there will be further service impacts on Auburn due to budget cuts slated for multiple state and county agencies.” The biggest state budget cuts are coming out of education and social services, Richardson said. “We can’t determine those impacts until we see the details of the budget,” Richardson said. Andy Heath, administrative services director for the city, does not see any immediate positive budget effects for the city, either. “Passing a budget didn’t put more funds into the system,” Heath said Friday. The city has already paid $100,000 to the Auburn Fire Department to fight fires in 2008, and with such a long delay before the state budget was passed, the city has not been reimbursed for those funds. The status of the city receiving that money depends on the state controller. “As long as the controller releases the funds, we should get it,” Heath said. Heath attended a seminar in San Francisco earlier in the week for the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers. The meeting dealt with practical ways to conduct a water and sewer rate study, along with ways to handle budget cuts. While the City of Auburn’s financial situation fares much better than other foothill cities like Lincoln or Folsom, Mayor Mike Holmes said the council is closely watching expenses. “We are monitoring our income and expenses, basically on a month-to-month basis, when it used to be once a quarter that we would make adjustments,” Holmes said. “For the moment, we have sufficient reserves to make up for any shortfall with sales tax.” The city laid off 11 employees last March and more cutbacks may be necessary in June. “We are in discussions with our employees for several options as we approach the end of the fiscal year in June,” Holmes said. “It’s too early to say anything.” In mid January, Holmes held an Economic Summit at City Hall and more than 80 interested business members and residents attended. Holmes called the summit in order to find new ideas that might help jump-start the local economy in the next 60 to 90 days. When asked if he found any ideas from the summit the City Council might act upon, Holmes said he has been meeting with members of the California Welcome Center and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. However, no action or decisions have been made thus far. Improving the marketability of Auburn as a tourist stop may be the answer, he said. “It’s become clear to me in order to market Auburn and the Auburn area, we need to combine our resources so business districts, the city and other players can get a broader marketing of the area that could then reach out to a wider tourist market,” Holmes said. “We have to decide how we are going to brand ourselves as a tourist stop, which is one idea at the top of the list.” The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at Auburnjournal.com.