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Rohnert Park faces $2.3 million general fund deficit

Rohnert Park's City Council on Tuesday will review the revenue and expense trends that have contributed to the city's looming $2.3 million general-fund deficit.

A year ago, the deficit was projected to be $333,000, down dramatically from 2008 when the city faced a $9 million deficit. As recently as 2010, officials were mentioning bankruptcy as a possible recourse.

Much of the next fiscal year's deficit is due to the loss of $1.5 million in redevelopment funds that previously bolstered the general fund, City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said.

The state eliminated redevelopment agencies statewide in 2011.

“Just as we were pulling out of our situation, along comes the loss of redevelopment and sweeps it out from under our feet,” Gonzalez said.

Rising personnel costs also are a factor. At the same time, revenues have not risen, Gonzalez said.

“Even though we've done everything we could, our biggest expense continues to be ... the pensions and medical and retirement and workman's comp,” he said.

Chiefly, the cost of employer contributions to the state pension system for public safety officers are set to rise by 8.2 percent this year.

“Those are just ongoing costs that we are going to continue to incur,” Gonzalez said. “Without some of those, we might be in a better place, long-term.”

The situation in the county's third largest city stands in sharp contrast to Santa Rosa, which is looking at a 9 percent increase in revenue from sales, property and other taxes and a balanced budget for the first time in years.

Asked why the two cities' circumstances should be so different, Gonzalez said, “That's a good question. You talk to the other eight cities and even the county and we all continue to experience revenues remaining level.”

Petaluma, too, projects a budget deficit of $3.3 million for next fiscal year, largely due to similar expenses.

The Rohnert Park council meets at 5 p.m.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

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