April 7th City Council Meeting to address first level budget cuts

The agenda and packet are out for the April 7th City council meeting. There had been some discussion that there would be no cuts until September but the agenda includes some recommended cuts totaling $1,631,848. Pages 214-220 of the packet address the financial crisis and have some proposed cuts. It looks like once again the city has hired consultants (Management Partners) to make recommendations. It would be interesting to know how much their contract is for. I am going to make public records request for that information. (Please see below for the April 6th update on this issue.)

Pages 218-220 addresses the cuts, which to this layperson, look like cuts that should have been made back when the State Auditor made their statement of the city’s fiscal instability back in October.

Cuts include

  1. Cuts in staff training
  2. Cuts in consultant usage
  3. A pension reduction because a past staff member passed away
  4. A movement of park maintenance costs over to Measure H (something that many of us predicted would happen when Measure H passed) of over 46k
  5. Permanent reduction in 1 School Resource officer $150,000
  6. Vacant 3 sworn Police Officer positions $377,493 (salary & benefits)
  7. Vacant Community Liaison Officer $160,265 (salary & benefits)
  8. Vacant 1 Senior Records Specialist $113,660 (salary & benefits)

Things that stand out that have yet to be addressed are El Cerrito’s much higher levels of staff compensation compared to other cities of similar size. See links below to articles where that was discussed.

How to address the high ($1.7 million) costs of fire department overtime. Would more hiring drop that amount? Are there ways to keep the fire department efficient with cuts? Is the fire department efficient in the first place? What about charging for EMT services (which are going to increase with the current medical crisis) for those with insurance? We want our citizens to be protected but there may be ways to do so more efficiently. At the very least a public discussion needs to occur. The Fire Department was an area called out as a concern by the State Auditor.

Wherever you stand on these issues the council must hear your voice. I am copying information on how to make a public comment for the meeting below.

You can submit testimony by emailing the city clerk, at cityclerk@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us. Your email must contain have a subject line which either states

public comments –not on the agenda

or public comments –agenda item #. So for the second one refer to agenda item 7A if you are discussing the budget issue.

Comments sent up until noon the day of the meeting will be given to council prior to the meeting. Comments sent in during the meeting and up until the public comment period on the relevant agenda item is closed, will be read into the record and will be limited to a maximum of 3 minutes. It is important that comments become part of the public record of the meeting. This creates a record of community concern.

You can also comment via voicemail at (510) 306-2558. The caller must start the message by stating public comments –not on the agenda or public comments –agenda item #followed by their name and place of residence, followed by their comments

A sample message might be:

The state auditor, the independent auditor, and the Standard and Poor’s financial analyst all agree that El Cerrito is in financial peril. It is imperative that the city act now to reduce costs. With City Hall closed, now is the right time to reduce staff size and require the remaining staff to take pay cuts down to the levels of their 2016 compensation. Employee compensation has increased by $4 million per year over the past two years. If staff will not willingly share in the burden caused by poor council decisions for many, many years, then additional people will need to be laid off.

Resources

El Cerrito is in Financial Crisis and Residents need to step up their game

El Cerrito Employee Compensation

Update April 6th-So upon making a public records request for the contract and re-reading the staff report it looks like the Management Partners Contract is the consultant on the Strategic Plan and did not make the budget recommendations. They are instead spearheading Strategic Plan process for a cost not to exceed $32,500. I am continuing to gather information on the use of consultants and will do a future post on this issue.

The contract is found here.

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