Ah, glorious redemption. The State Auditors report on El Cerrito is out and it says everything we have been saying for over a year plus some! All links are below and I encourage people to read it. It is scathing in its criticism.
Since I recognize that not all of you are as enthusiastic as I to read a 64-page report here are some highlights in no particular order.
- Summary statement
Highlights are overspending, poor budgeting and monitoring, poor information flow to City Council, no formal financial recovery plan, insufficient reductions, missed opportunities to generate revenue, above-average salaries, and high salaries for fire and police staff.
2. Failure to meet reserve goals. This is why we are pushing for the city to develop an ordinance so that they are required to follow their written policies. Please sign our petition in support of this.
3. Our reliance on borrowing is not okay and is costing us quite a lot of money. Remember the library hours we fought over? That was around 125K. See how much we are paying for loans below? That funds those hours.
4. Our pension costs are out of control. Even in a state where that is common. We are also only making minimum payments. Below is the chart of how those minimum payments have grown.
5. Salaries are too high and staff can raise them above the top step without council approval.
6. The way the Finance Department is set up it can manually approve invoices when they go over budget. So there is no motivation for departments to stay on budget.
If you read nothing else I would read the one-pager and the city’s response which includes the auditor’s response back to them. The City had an expected response blaming past councils and city managers, stating they were following accounting rules, everything is Covid related, etc. There was once again no responsibility taken for getting us in this mess. And the public has been pushing for many of the things in this report for over a year. And they haven’t happened. Now we will see if this city is ready to make the structural changes needed. The State Auditors’ response back was pretty harsh. El Cerrito now has 60 days to submit back a corrective plan.
I think the City Council needs to look at real consequences. The Finance Director is not able to do what needs to be done. The City Manager (whose contract was just renewed) continues to make excuses. How about holding these staff accountable?
We are currently developing a list of questions we will send to all council members in regards to this report. If/When they respond we will post the responses here. In their own words and allow for them to make a statement beyond the questions. Maybe now instead of gaslighting those of us that have been yelling about this for a year and a half they can listen to us. Because this report proves we were correct.