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[February 06, 2013]
City manager resigns over Firebaugh woes
Feb 06, 2013 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Firebaugh's city manager is leaving amid a ballooning deficit that the City Council is debating how to contain.
City Manager Laura Weyant said Tuesday that she resigned because of the town's financial struggles and a disagreement with City Council members on how to close the gap.
Weyant, who was city manager for about 16 months, emailed her resignation effective April 5 to council members before their Monday night meeting, Mayor Marcia Sablan said.
However, council members voted to place Weyant on paid administrative leave for the remainder of her tenure, Sablan said. Weyant's contract required a 60-day resignation notice, Sablan said.
The city's most daunting problem is the general fund deficit. The city's budget is $2.5 million. Weyant was projecting a $1.2 million deficit for this year.
The general fund deficit was $834,000, as of June 30, said finance director Pio Martin, who was appointed acting city manager Monday. The deficit has grown since then, he said, though he would not specify what it was.
Weyant, who lives in Clovis but grew up in Firebaugh and still has family there, said she did not agree with the council's direction and cited conflicting personalities.
"It doesn't mean I am turning my back on my community. I just can't get over that hurdle," she said.
On Monday, the council approved a special election to lift the cap on the city's 10% utility tax, Martin said. Currently, households and businesses pay up to $500 a year each for electric, gas and phone service -- meaning as much as $1,500 annually, he said.
The council also is proposing a 5% tax on cellphone use, Sablan said.
The special election date for those two issues has not yet been determined, though it could be in about three months, she said.
Weyant said she disagreed with a council proposal to cut three police officers from the city's 11-member department.
Sablan said the council never has formally proposed to lay off police officers but conceded that "everything has to be on the table to see how we're going to balance the budget." City administrators have spoken with employees about concessions, letting vacancies go unfilled, and contracting out services.
Weyant said she spoke with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office about contracting to patrol Firebaugh's streets, but there would have been no savings. She also talked to Mendota city officials about police services.
The western Fresno County city of 7,700 last week took an economic hit when its last new-car dealership, Westside Ford, closed.
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