The city of Hesperia's budget situation has gotten a little bleaker in the last month, and that might mean belt-tightening for employees.


At Tuesday's meeting of the Hesperia city council, about a dozen employees stood in silent protest before the city council, as Bridgette Washington, a labor relations representative for the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, read a prepared statement asking the city to "take another look at the instructions you have given to the city's chief negotiator."


Prior to the public portion of the meeting, the council had discussed the state of negotiations with both union and non-union employees.


"We feel we have been more than reasonable and even willing to consider concessions," Washington told the council. "We ... are aware of the economic conditions of the state affecting public employees, but we are also aware that these are temporary conditions. The city's budget will again return to healthy levels, and its employees will remember how the storm was weathered."


At February's budget workshop, Assistant City Manager Brian Johnson told the city council the city was facing a $1.7 million deficit in the general fund, due in part to the state's budget crisis, as well as the collapse of the housing market, but that there were no plans to lay off any of the city's 206 employees.


The deficit is now closer to $2 million, due in part to what's good news for property owners -- property taxes in the city were automatically reduced with the reassessment of property values in the city.


"It's not like catastrophic, and we're creating strategies to deal with it," said Johnson, "But wages and benefits are going to fit very heavily into how we balance the budget."


On Tuesday, Washington urged the council to dip into the city's rainy day fund instead of the budget being balanced "on the backs of [employees]."


"Typically, reserves are and can be used for rainy days," she said. "And it is raining in the city of Hesperia."


That's something the city's not going to do, according to Johnson.


"Our mantra at [the budget review] is our same mantra now: We're going to have a balanced budget. We're not going to use reserves for anything other than one-time expenditures," he said. "It just heads you down a path where ultimately you get in big trouble."


The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on April 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star