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City Solvency Is Top Priority
First and foremost, the goal for 2010 is getting - and keeping - the city in the black.

That, according to interim City Manager Doug Dunford, who said he hopes to do a midyear budget review soon with an eye toward balancing the books.

"We want to make sure the city is solvent and we want to keep moving forward for this year," Dunford said.

Though the calendar year has changed to 2010, the city is in the middle of its budget year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The city budget for 2009-2010 was adopted late and did draw on some reserves, as the city grappled with budget issues handed down from the state level and tried to find ways to fund programs and services with less money coming in.

Following Dunford's selection as the interim city manager in October, some reorganizing of departments was done in the city and those changes were designed to streamline services and make the best use of staff time and talent.

"We also have a new financial software package going in that will make that job much easier, much smoother and more efficient," Dunford said. "Our Finance Director Tammy Alcantor has some great expectations for it and that should be fully operational in April or May."

In the police department, longtime officer Dustin Brookshire has been promoted to acting sergeant in the absence of Sgt. Milt Medeiros, who is out with an injury.

The recreation department, with former assistant to the city manager Bridget Gaines now serving as recreation director, has moved in to the new Police Department facility on McHenry and is back under the direction of the police department.

On the horizon are road projects on Yosemite and Stanislaus, slated for late spring-early summer, while the council and Dunford will meet for the annual goal setting session in early March.

"Then the department heads get together for team building, we will determine how to attack and achieve our goals," Dunford explained. "The first six months, we will work to get back in the black."

By that time, the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year will be due and Dunford said he wants to make sure that the budget is in on time this year and, hopefully, balanced without having to draw on reserve funds.

"We need some out of the box ideas," Dunford admitted, noting one of the challenges this year will be having department heads do more with less, since raising taxes is not on the list of things city officials want to happen.

"We do have some new businesses," Dunford said of some anticipated commercial growth this year. "And we do have a major fast food chain looking at us."

Dunford said the city also wants to work more cooperatively with the business community, both enticing new business and making a better climate for those already operating here.

"It needs to be a synergistic effort," he said of all interests pulling together to help the city grow and thrive.

"In March we look at the budget, we made service cuts last year, what we need to do is see if we can hold the line and then be more proactive instead of reactionary," he said.

Also anticipated is adding more services on line to make dealing with the city easier and more efficient for residents.

"We have some new ideas for 2010," he said.

Serving the final quarter of the calendar year as the interim City Manager, Dunford said he has found the job to have its ups and downs.

"It's been challenging but I'm having a lot of fun," he said. "It's a different side of city government and the city council has been a tremendous help."

Dunford, who also serves as the city's police chief, took over the top spot when longtime City Manager Greg Greeson was fired on Oct. 1.

"To Greg's credit, when he was here he taught us (department heads) to think like little city managers," Dunford said, noting that he learned to consider the impact of his department on the city as a whole when making decisions.

He also said City Clerk Lisa Nebe and Finance Director Tammy Alcantor have been instrumental in guiding him through his first few months on the job.

"Lisa and Tammy have borne the brunt of my learning curve," he said. "They've both shown the patience of a saint."