We are alarmed but refuse to take action-City Council meeting 10/20/2020

But they refuse to take action! Councilperson Pardue-Okimoto was once again the lone voice saying make cuts now. As you can see from the below statement included in the packet we are at 11% of revenues with 25% of the year completed. Now there is an issue with the city getting our Transfer Tax money from the county due to logistical issues so that will make up some of this deficit. However, what we are seeing month after month is overly optimistic revenue projections that have no basis in reality. During the meeting, the Finance Director said we had 9 months to make up 4 million in revenue from the Recreation Department. Does anyone think we will be able to make up some of the lost revenue losses in this fiscal year? He also stated he would amend if he heard from the Recreation Department that their revenue was down. Is that not a number that should be being passed on to the Finance Director monthly? The Recreation Department was formerly referred to by Councilperson Fadelli as El Cerrito’s cash cow. And this cow is no longer producing. We need massive adjustments to be made.

Apparently an over $844,000 revenue shortfall in one quarter is not enough to inspire the council to act. Mayor Lyman was alarmed. Councilperson Quinto was alarmed but both said lets keep on watching for another month or two. Because not acting on bad budget news is exactly how we got to this crisis in the first place.

I am at a loss here. Except for a few dogged individuals the public comment is quiet unless they try to cut something people love like the library or a swim center staff person. While the council has at least improved to the point that they are looking at monthly statements their refusal to act is a stunning betrayal of public trust.

I get the public numbing out. We want to live our lives and not be constantly worried about government on all of its levels. However, if the city goes bankrupt it will be a disaster. Every service that people love will be decimated. Services that are needed like Fire will also be cut. Look at what happened to Vallejo. They paid over 20 million in legal and other fees on their bankruptcy. They are struggling to this day, 8 years after emerging from bankruptcy, because of their pension debt which was not resolved in the bankruptcy. At the time they cut the library and senior services and 40% of the police budget. This is what El Cerrito faces without better fiscal management. The consultants hired by the city already have proposed closing Station 72 of the Fire Department something that is widely not supported. But at the end of the day we need both more revenue and expenditure cuts. We need a City Manager and Council willing to make substantive changes. All the changes thus far have not even touched the pension debt issue which is rarely even discussed.

If the City declares bankrupcty (which will happen if we cannot pay back our 8.6 million dollar loan in June 2021 we can anticipate all services to be cut or eliminated. We can perhaps even predict falling housing values like what happened in Vallejo.

What I can say is if you are concerned please write to your council memebers and also submit public comments at the meetings. Council members need to hear from residents. Every voice does matter. If it had not been for a bunch of people sending emails and pushing I doubt we would have seen much action at all. And if you have not voted for council yet please vote for the people you think will best be able to address this budget crisis.

Karen Pinkos-City Manager kpinkos@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Greg Lyman-Mayor glyman@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Paul Fadelli Vice Mayor pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Pardue-Okimoto rpardueokimoto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Janet Abelson jabelson@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Gabe Quinto gquinto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

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