A long-term plan created by city officials years ago has helped Patterson maintain a strong position despite a challenging economy, according to Mark Pressman, a city of Patterson financial analyst. Pressman spoke to the City Council during a March 19 presentation on the city’s financial standing.
The city’s vision consists of cultivating a healthy reserve — now nearly $9 million with no general fund debt — while steadily growing the population and economy of Patterson, Pressman said.
“I would say Patterson has a long-range vision that has been carefully implemented over time,” he said Tuesday, April 2. “They are working toward a diverse population and a diverse economy. It is serving their constituents well.”
That city’s economic stability has been noticed elsewhere, too. In December, Standard and Poors gave Patterson’s water and sewer bonds an A rating on a scale of AAA to D, or default. No other rating was given to the city at the time because it had no general fund debt.
“I believe an A rating for a small community in the Central Valley is good,” Pressman said.
Though council members with different goals and personalities have steered the city through the years, Pressman said all have shared a priority of growing Patterson’s economy and building its general fund reserve.
A reserve of almost $9 million remains in spite of budget deficits resulting from a weak national economy in recent years, City Manager Rod Butler said.
Patterson cut down its budget deficit from more than $800,000 in fiscal year 2010-2011 to about $400,000 in 2011-12. This fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, the shortfall has been pared to $250,000, Butler said, and the 2013-14 budget is expected to be balanced with no help from the reserve fund.
The city manager agreed with Pressman’s belief that past councils steered the city in a sound economic direction.
“It’s made my job a lot easier in the last few years,” he said. “I haven’t had to practice root canal management.”
Patterson Mayor Luis Molina expressed similar views Thursday, April 4.
“I think there’s a sense of fiscal responsibility in terms of building that capacity — saving for that rainy day,” Molina said. “When you see other cities filing for bankruptcy, you’re able to take some pride that we’ve been a little more judicious than some.”
Councilman Dominic Farinha said agreed as well.
“I am proud to say that over the course of the last decade and beyond prior council members and mayors had a common theme of city before self which has manifested into Patterson’s exemplary standing and success today,” he said.
Former Councilwoman Annette Smith, who served on the council from 2006 to 2012, said the top priority for council members in those years was to take care of the budget so subsequent councils would have money to spend.
“I don’t know anybody that has been off-task when it comes to the budget,” she said. “Every city in our county has had to lay off employees and cut salaries. The worst we’ve had to do is freeze salaries.”
Wade Bingham, who served Patterson as mayor from 1986 to 1992, is also pleased with the economic progress of the city, despite occasional hiccups.
“You know, we have the old viewpoint that the town should be 3,000 people,” he said. “But that’s not possible anymore. Now you have to let it grow, and it should be done in an organized fashion.”
So far, he said, it has.
“The city should be proud to have Amazon.com, Walmart and W.W. Grainger in town,” Bingham said. “The growth is fine, as long as they collect the development fees up front. You need infrastructure.”
Looking ahead, Bingham said the city must focus on transportation infrastructure to serve the businesses that are settling in Patterson.
“You can’t build a hotel and then not build a street to get to it,” he said. “People underestimate the importance of infrastructure.”
Despite the city’s financial success, Molina said past councils did fall short in managing redevelopment funding, compared with neighboring communities.
The Patterson Redevelopment Agency lost about $700,000 from accounts that were unused or not earmarked when state legislators abolished redevelopment agencies in 2011 and seized their accounts to cope with a $26 billion state budget shortfall.
City Council members, who doubled as development agency board members, were putting together plans to revamp the parks in downtown Patterson when the money was taken.
“We weren’t able to do what cities like Newman did with their downtown,” Molina said.
But Smith, the former councilwoman, placed the blame for Patterson’s redevelopment problems on former City Manager Cleve Morris, who she said disregarded the requests of council members.
“We had a city manager that was incapable of getting redevelopment projects off the ground, no matter how much we asked,” she said.
Morris did not return calls this week seeking comment.
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or firstname.lastname@example.org.