RIVERSIDE: City aims to restore library, pool hours

RIVERSIDE: City aims to restore library, pool hours

Next year’s budget no longer calls for closing a swimming pool and reducing library hours, after changes made this week.

With some last-minute shifting of dollars, Riverside city officials will likely avoid the least popular of the proposed budget cuts for fiscal 2016-17.

City Manager John Russo proposed trimming mostly small amounts from travel, office supplies, employee training and other such costs, which would allow the city to keep libraries and the Arlington swimming pool open.

Earlier proposals to avoid a $10.5 million deficit included closing the pool July 1 and reducing hours at all eight library branches, which would have meant furloughs for library workers.

The last-minute changes, which the council will vote on next week, came in response to residents’ concerns and how the council reacted to them, Russo said Tuesday, June 14.

“This is the budgetary equivalent … of turning everybody upside down and shaking them and seeing what coins fall out of their pockets,” he said.

The overall budget, which after cuts total about $267 million in general fund spending, would still trim at least 4 percent from a baseline of this year’s spending. Most departments would leave some vacant jobs open or not replace workers who retire, but the cuts do not include layoffs.

Several residents said they were pleased to learn of the last-minute changes.

“I came here today expecting to have to beg and plead for these essential services that the city needs,” resident Katie Porter told the council Tuesday. Instead she found herself thanking officials.

Officials previously announced they would not eliminate the University Neighborhood Enhancement Team, which polices the area around UC Riverside, and that they would restore funding for July 4 fireworks at La Sierra Park. But no city fireworks shows would be funded in 2017, so the city will seek private dollars to pay for them at La Sierra and Mount Rubidoux parks.

Reaching agreement on the year-old city management team’s first budget has been a bumpy road for council members.

A month or two ago, some questioned how there could be a deficit after years of apparently balanced budgets. Russo has said officials had been relying on last-minute windfalls, reserve funds and other stopgap solutions.

Praising the work of city officials and and council members, City Councilman Mike Gardner said, “I feel pretty good about where we have gotten ourselves at this point.”

The council will vote on the budget Tuesday, June 21. The plan currently depends on tentative agreements with unions for firefighters and fire management, which union members were expected to vote on Wednesday, June 15, and Thursday, June 16.

The Riverside City Council members tinkered with the 2016-18 spending plan to avoid some painful service cuts.

Changes: The city would no longer close the Arlington pool or reduce library hours. July 4 fireworks at La Sierra and Mount Rubidoux parks would take place. The police team that serves the area around UC Riverside would continue patrols. No fire stations would close.

Reductions: Services such as tree trimming and road repair would take place less often. Some vacant city jobs wouldn’t be filled. The city would shrink internal costs such as for travel, training and supplies.

What’s next: The council will vote on the budget at a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at Riverside City Hall, 3900 Main St.

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