Library Hours on the Cutting Block but not high staff salaries

Notes Regarding City Council Meeting on April 21, 2020

There are two meetings on the 21st. The first is a Labor Negotiations meeting with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021; El Cerrito Police Employees Association; United Professional Firefighters Local 1230; Public Safety Management Association ­ Battalion Chief, Fire Chief, Police Chief, and Police Management; and Management and Confidential Employees. The only thing of note here is that the city hired a Labor Negotiator. I am not sure if this is something that they always do or not.

The regular meeting has a few things that are of note. If you are only interested in the library that is item 7D.

Item 5A a presentation by the independent auditor hired by the city.. This firm has been calling out El Cerrito’s financial issues since 2018 and been ignored. Questions I would like council members to ask the auditor include

1. What made you bring up the “going concern” issue in 2018. What does that mean exactly?

2. Do you feel like the city has taken appropriate actions to mitigate that concern? 

3. What actions would you recommend now?

Item 7AFY 2019­20 Third Quarter General Fund Budget Update and Covid­19 Impacts

This is a report found in the packet on page 249.

Revenues are noted to close THIS Fiscal Year with an almost $3.8 million deficit. The reports appears to blame this on COVID and a few businesses closing in El Cerrito.

Property and Sales Taxes

They estimate no change in property taxes for the April payments and estimate a 1.1 million dollar reduction in sales tax. 

Real Property Transfer Tax-One large 600k payment earlier this year helped this situation. A number is not attached to this but staff estimates no significant income here.

Recreation Department revenue down 1.3 million

Utility taxes and some other misc taxes and fees-900k reduction

As a results staff estimates a 3,780,000 decrease and that is not including the transfer tax which did not have a number attached. 

Expenses Cut

$150,000 this is the layoffs of part-time recreation staff which is 100k and 50k by deferring some purchases.

So using the staff’s number is 3.78 million minus 150k =$3,630,000 deficit. This is for this Fiscal Year. The year in which staff knew there were issues and chose not to make any cuts nor build a reserve.

The next steps say that on top of the 2 million in cuts recommended the last meeting that 2 million more need to be made. Which is contrary to the amount of cuts that the consultants said were needed which was 8 million (see this post for the picture)

The city is applying for another loan and they say that without the loan they may be bankrupt (except they say insolvent).

So the staff recommendation given all of this is to NOT COMPLETE A BUDGET PROCESS UNTIL OCTOBER. This means not only FY 19/20 with no cuts but the over the first quarter of 20/21 where we already know we have a deficit of 4-8 million depending on who you listen to.

Items 7B and 7C Union negotiations-starts on page 256

One of these is for firefighters and the other is for Fire Battalion Chiefs of which the city has 4. The Firefighters waived their 3% COLA for 2020 and will get it in 2021. The Battalion Chiefs waived their 2020 COLA but managed to get a retroactive 3% COLA for 2019. So the negotiations with the Chiefs saved us almost nothing because of that cost. Savings is around 16k.

I wonder if they used a paid negotiator for the negotiation.

Item 7D City Council Division Budget DiscussionThis begins on page 281 in the packet. 

Essentially this entire discussion is on cutting only the City Council part of the budget which is a very minor part of the budget, except it includes the library hours and access to city council meetings via video.

So the staff thinks that not cutting any staff people is a great idea while cutting the city-funded 15 library hours for a savings of 129k is a great idea. We have three city managers (Manager, Assistant Manager, and Assistant to the Manager) Richmond which is much larger than us has a City Manager and an Assistant to the City Manager. Reducing one of these positions pays for the library hours. I would encourage people to read this report on the library and its hours found in the last packet starting on page 78.

Those library hours provide for much-needed services for many in the community including the most disenfranchised and to cut that access before cutting almost anything else is a travesty.

So to sum up the main issues

  1. Staff and council continue to not make cuts in this fiscal year
  2. Staff and council continue to not address salary and staff cuts that will be necessary
  3. If we do not get the loan in July we will be bankrupt
  4. The City Manager is recommending that the library hours need to be cut

Please Please Please make a public comment for the meeting. Below is how to do so. If you do it later in the day of the meeting it has to be read into the record and has to be less than 3 minutes. If you send it earlier it goes into the council packet and may or may not be read by the council.

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 library, it would be 7D for the general budget it is 7A. You can make comments on both items!

Comments sent up until noon on the day of the meeting will be given to the council before 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.

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