April 7th Council Meeting-More Talk No Real Action

The April 7th El Cerrito City Council meeting had the budget on the agenda. Staff used the $150 an hour consultants to make new slides saying how bad things are. One slide said that we are at risk of an 8 million dollar deficit in the next fiscal year. This is even with the 2 million dollars in cuts discussed at this meeting. @updated note 4/12 I have been told that the green line does NOT integrate the 2 million in cuts while the red line does. This is not what the slides says so it is confusing.

You will notice the green line is the no recession forecast and that was still bad. What I keep hearing council and staff imply is that we would have been okay without this recession. That is simply not true. Notice also that this fiscal year (19/20) it is showing a 2 million dollar deficit with this recession.

That is the reason I continued to be shocked that cuts are not being made in this fiscal year. The proposed cuts discussed at the meeting were for the next fiscal year. I have emailed Mayor Greg Lyman and asked why if this chart indicates an 8 million dollar deficit was he still talking about 4 million in additional cuts for NEXT YEAR. This slide was discussed at 2:15 in the video of the meeting which will be linked to below.

There was some discussion on additional cuts. The City Manager said that management is giving up their car allowances. She also recommended immediately cutting the additional 15 hours of library services that the city pays for. Councilperson Pardue-Okimoto pushed back on that. She asked why a cut that would so affect citizens was a first cut to make. She also pointed out that in the strategic plan residents said education was their #1 priority and the library and recreation services are how those services are provided by the city. Councilperson Fadelli stated he would only support a 5-10% cut in library hours that was more in line with other cut levels. Mayor Lyman stated that it would be about 4 hours and suggested cutting Sunday hours. This decision needs to be finalized at the next meeting as the city needs to let the county know by May 1st what their plans are. If you are a library supporter please email your comments in for that meeting (I will have the agenda up and info on sending in comments before that).

There seems to be a very big reluctance to lay off city management staff. There were 90 furloughed part-time employees. The City Manager said there are policies to follow in regards to lay-offs.

Other issues raised

Councilperson Quinto keeps pushing the out-sourcing of some services especially senior services. He also wants us to let the Hillside area be taken over by East Bay Parks to mitigate our fire prevention responsibilities. He also said he does not like the “attacks” on the city manager.

Councilperson Abelson stated public safety is the #1 priority.

The 4th of July was officially canceled for this year. At this point, it is a much a public safety issue as it is a financial one.

Several people brought up the idea that some funds might be raised by charging for ambulance services for persons with insurance. Staff is also looking at making some increases in the fees charged for services.

The City Manager stated several times that the management staff was small and that is why they needed consultants.

Issues not raised

  1. Fire Department overtime-This was raised only in terms that at this time when a fire department staff person attends a public event (like a CERT meeting) they are always paid overtime. This is because they don’t want a shortage of staff if there is a fire. This is going to be stopped. Fire Department staff will not attend these events. There is a continued ignoring of the FD overtime budget in general.

    2. Higher than normal management compensation. This has been explored here before.

    3. Any cuts for 19/20 fiscal year

    4. Details on the next short-term loan needed. El Cerrito has been using short-term loans to stay afloat and many of us are concerned that if we do not get the next loan bankruptcy is going to happen for sure. I will post more on this issue if/when I get more details. We need to know when this loan is needed, what happens if we do not get it and if we get it what the terms of.
    I have followed up on this issue and will post more if I get more information.

    5. Any discussion of how CAL-PERS issues will be handled. There will be an increase in unfunded liabilities due to the economic crisis. It is unclear to me how much that has been factored into the projections the consultants made.

The meeting can be found here

Supplemental Agenda items (including public comment and the slides from the consultants) can be found here.

8 thoughts on “April 7th Council Meeting-More Talk No Real Action

  1. I think first and foremost the Council needs to digest the reality of the situation and be clear on the numbers. I heard some Council members banter about 4 million, when indeed it appears that a total of 8 million needs to be cut from the original proposed budget for 2020/2021
    . I wouldn’t expect final action, even at the next meeting. The budget needs to be adopted prior to July 1st, and if there are indeed layoffs, negotiations with Unions might take some time as well. I don’t know if the mid-year revision were actually adopted for 2019-2020, anyone know?


  2. I agree that we need to know the real number. I expect action only on the library cuts at the next meeting because there is a May 1st deadline. I would also expect that this is going to be on the agenda for almost every meeting throughout the year as the realities of this recession become more clear and negotiations etc happen. Thank you for your comment!


  3. $8 M cuts are certainly in our future. I’m curious — if the cuts start to require police and fire service level reduction will people favor a parcel tax $350/year?) over reductions in public safety?.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I personally will not support any taxes until I feel certain that the city is managing our money effectively. After I read the State Auditors report for sure. That being said EC residents seem to approve every tax so I would not bet on it failing. Perhaps others will comment.


      1. Normally I would bet on citizens approving a parcel tax especially if the purpose was made clear, however given the economic shocks from COVID there could be more people facing financial hardships and therefore lower support levels than normal. That said, I was surprised the consultants didn’t bring this up more as an option worthy of consideration.


      2. Thanks for your comment Dan. The consultants said they did not do a deep dive so if they continue their work I suspect we will hear more options. That being said they did say cuts needed to happen first because any additional revenue would be slow to implement


  4. Maybe bankruptcy would be the best thing for El Cerrito. I read in an NPR report that “In Vallejo’s case, bankruptcy offers another benefit: It would allow the city to renegotiate costly labor contracts with public-safety employees, which reportedly account for about 80 percent of the city’s general fund budget.”


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