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2017 city budget calls for new positions

Santa Clara will likely see an increase of more than 47 government employees next year. The proposed staffing increase was part of the latest study sessions May 24 to discuss next year’s budget.

Although the budget is balanced, Gary Ameling, finance director for the city, said integrating these positions into the city’s budget will allow the city to “unfreeze” certain positions it has been authorizing but not factoring into its overall staff.

“It is important to find a balance between funding the new positions and maintaining the current positions,” he said. “[The numbers] have really been misstating the amount of positions available in the budget.”

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Some positions are new, such as the addition of a stadium manager. The city is need of someone who is able to devote their time to overseeing matters at Levi’s Stadium, Ameling said. The position would be given to someone already working for the city, allowing them to focus their attention on those endeavors.

The addition of the new positions, 15 of which are in the police department alone, will bring the city’s number of full-time employees to nearly 800. If approved, the staffing increase would represent a $17.8 million increase in the budget over the 2015-16 budget.

Rajeev Batra, city manager, said the new structuring and addition of the positions will help provide stability and continuity within the government, as the city commits to employees for two or three years at a time.

“It is very interesting and eye-opening to see the different directions we are going in,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “This isn’t the olden days … There is a lot of competition for good government employees.”

Ameling also detailed some rather disconcerting news in the budget’s five-year projection. Unless the city takes measures, it will be operating at a $1.4 million deficit by the end of the five-year plan in 2021.

The budget figures assume “moderate economic growth,” Ameling said. However, he added that the economy has been trending upward since the end of the recession.

“Although that we expect that sometime in the next few years we will go through a recession, that has not been taken into account in the budget,” he said.

However, Ameling did project that sales tax revenue will likely reach an all-time high next year, and property tax revenue will likely grow as newly developments beginning breaking ground. He said the figures for economic growth were “conservative” and if they turn out to be above his projections before a recession hits, the deficit could easily turn into a surplus.

Councilmen Jerry Marsalli and Dominic Caserta were absent. The council will meet again to discuss the budget in a final study session June 7. The council will vote to approve the budget during its June 21 meeting.

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