In response to criticism that the city is not doing enough business with Ceres shops, members of the Ceres City Council last week ordered staff to analyze where it's spending its money.
Ceres resident Wes Stamper brought up the topic of Shane Parson's recent complaint to the council that he is routinely passed up for business at Embroidery Plus by the city and Ceres sports teams. Stamper read about the complaint in a recent Ceres Courier article and suggested adopting a local preference in purchasing program.
City Manager Toby Wells stated that the city already has a local business preference but acknowledged that it may need to be expanded. Councilman Ken Lane commented that while there is a city policy in place, he said "I don't know how well it's working and I think that it's something we need to revisit."
Lane complimented the Chamber on its Shop Local campaign adopted in 2014 but said "the city needs to do that too."
Lane suggested the city needs to go through each purchase to track where it's been made to determine if the products or services can be accomplished in Ceres.
"Are we reaching out (to Ceres businesses) or are we saying we can get it cheaper somewhere else?" Lane asked rhetorically.
He also commented that the school district and sports leagues try to spend money locally.
Wells said the city has discretion where to make purchases of under $2,000 since it does not need to go to multiple bids. Contracting for services are a different matter, he said, noting local preference cannot legally be applied to public works contracts.
Parson's recent complaint centered on the matter of signs for the park, which were ordered as part of a Public Works Department contract.
Wells said the city strives to purchase "the best product for best price purchased locally."
"We get all three of those and we've made the perfect purchase," said Wells. "Is that always possible? Unfortunately not. Generally speaking, staff considers the local..."
Mayor Chris Vierra said he wants to see where the city has more opportunity to purchase locally, suggesting an ad hoc committee to sit down with staff. He suggested also developing a list of Ceres businesses and what they sell and "engage those businesses."
"I know things must not be working well because when we hear so many different people say, ‘That was a great article. Yeah I'm not seeing any business either,' it tells me we need to do a better job."
Wells told the council it would be better to load the council up with all the details about procurement details before it decides on an ad hoc committee.
Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter offered to help the city by surveying Chamber members and all businesses.
The council suggested a review of all purchases for fiscal year 2014-15 to see where the city spent money. Finance Director Suzanne Dean said the process would be very time intensive since it would include a review of 30 to 40 Visa credit card statements.
Dean noted that city staff trades a lot with Walmart, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Cost Less Foods and other local grocery stores in Ceres and that fire department personnel spends a lot with Costco in Turlock.
After the meeting Vierra wondered if the city could avoid shopping at Costco by seeing is Ceres retailers like Walmart of Kmart could cut some purchase deals.
In 2015 the Ceres Chamber of Commerce produced a video on Youtube.com which promotes its Shop Local campaign and its message of "Shift 10 when you spend."
The one minute, 30-second video features a number of city employees in their work settings and holding an erasable white board highlighting the services that sales tax dollars support. The video shows a Ceres firefighter, Ceres Police Sgt. Pat Crane, seniors exercising, Recreation Supervisor Traci Farris, a parks worker and children playing in the park. It also directs persons to check out the Chamber's message at www.shopceresfirst.com.
In 2014 the Ceres Chamber of Commerce came up with a public relations campaign designed to get Ceres residents and workers to make an effort to spend their money in Ceres rather than first run off to Modesto, Turlock or other larger cities with increased shopping opportunities.
Chamber President Renee Ledbetter said that shifting an additional 10 percent of their spending dollars here in Ceres "will really make a huge difference" in the revenue stream received by the city for spending on essential services.
The city raked in $4.8 million in its portion of the sales tax revenue collected in Ceres for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Ledbetter said the city would stand to gain $480,000 in additional tax dollars if Ceres residents spent 10 percent more shopping dollars to Ceres merchants.
The Chamber also arranged for a Shop Local message on the large billboard west of Highway 99 just south of Whitmore Avenue as well as on canvas shopping bags.
"The idea is to bring dollars that are spent back into the community in forms of services the city provides through sales tax dollars," said Ledbetter.
She acknowledges that Ceres merchants do not sell everyone one may need but "for certain things we're asking them to start thinking on a local level."