City News

A Message from City Manager Don Schwartz on City Funding for the Senior Center

March 9, 2024, City News

I understand that there have been many concerns and questions about potential cuts in City funding for the Senior Center. I’d like to thank those that have shared your views – that’s an important part of local government. I value your input and appreciate the time you take to share your thoughts.  I’d also like to provide a bit of background.

First and foremost, the entire City Council makes budget decisions for the City. They have not made any decisions on potential cuts. They will make budget decisions in future meetings after giving careful consideration to numerous options for using the General Fund. This is the fund we use to pay for most City services, such as police, fire, maintenance of parks and buildings, and support for non-profits.

At the March 19 City Council meeting staff will present an overview of the City’s financial picture, both today and projections for the next ten years. I encourage everyone to attend, either in person or via Zoom.  

The City is in a Fiscal Emergency, declared by the City Council last fall. The current fiscal year’s budget (July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024) includes spending $1.7 million from our reserves, mostly to fund on-going expenses. This is not sustainable. 

One of my responsibilities is to recommend a budget to the City Council. My recommendations for the next fiscal year will include a wide variety of steps to better align revenue and expenses to help us get to a sustainable path. I recognize that our non-profits, including the Senior Center, are cherished resources for the community. I will not recommend reducing their funding lightly nor without considering a wide range of alternatives. While City funding is a small percentage of the Senior Center revenue, I know that even small cuts can have big impacts. 

Very importantly, the City Council makes the ultimate decisions on City funding; they are not bound to follow my recommendations. The Council will consider the next Fiscal Year’s budget in a few months. We will announce the dates and times as we get closer. The Council has appointed a Budget Committee (Vice Mayor Stephen Zollman and Councilmember Sandra Maurer) to work with myself and other City staff in more detail.

There are also many asking how we got to the point where we need to consider any cuts. While I’ve been here less than three months, that’s one of the questions I’ve been trying to figure out. I anticipate discussing the City’s financial situation – including this question – at the City Council’s March 19 meeting, which starts at 6:00 p.m. in the Youth Annex and will be broadcast (accessible from the City’s website). Beyond that, in April we are likely to discuss the City’s funds for our water and sewer systems, which are also facing substantial financial challenges. 

I very much appreciate the many comments received from residents. One of the great things about Sebastopol is that we have engaged, thoughtful, and passionate residents – that’s a sign of a healthy community and one of the best things about working here.