FREMONT — Newark voters this month did more than just reject a utility tax by a mere 10 votes: They kept Fremont leaders from considering a tax hike of their own.
"Had it been a slam dunk, we may have looked at things a little differently," Councilmember Bill Harrison said.
Even if the tax had barely passed, city leaders would have considered talking with residents about a Fremont tax, Councilmember Anu Natarajan said.
But they knew it would have been a tough sell. Fremont voters twice this decade soundly rejected utility tax proposals by margins greater than 10 percent.
By Bay Area standards, Fremont is a low-tax, low-service city. There is no voter-approved city utility or parcel tax, and the city has the fewest employees per resident in Alameda County.
Services dropped a little more this year. To close its budget gap, Fremont is rotating fire station closures, has stopped trimming most street trees, has scaled back park maintenance and has reduced front desk hours at the police station.
The cutbacks haven't ignited much of a citizen backlash, council members say. Most of the complaints have centered around tree trimming.
But City Manager Fred Diaz warned that the cutbacks will take their toll, both on services and employee moral.
"It's doing less with less," he said. "We're way beyond doing more with less."
The latest budget projections, presented to the council Tuesday, show the city's finances stabilizing. Lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenue was offset by slightly higher-than-expected property tax income.
The city also has saved money by failing to find qualified police officers to fill several vacancies.
The upshot is no more cuts for now, but no plans to restore services and add employees.
In addition, it's too early to tell what the NUMMI auto plant's scheduled closure next spring will do to the city's bottom line, Finance Director Harriet Commons said.
Reach Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. Read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.