Something doesn’t add up. If you look at the Finance Director’s report for April 6th council meeting it says in item #2 “Total expenditure was $25.2 million or 67% of budget, compared with a three year average of $25.8 million.” That means our total expenditures were down $600k from the three year average. We have been told that millions in cuts have been made. What is the truth?
The state auditor said in her report (page 24/64 highlights are mine)
“Another deficiency in El Cerrito’s fiscal year 2020–21 budget is the amount of inconsistent information provided. The budget makes reference to multiple cost reductions, yet none of them reconcile to the expenditure amounts budgeted. In addition to the reductions of $1.5 million proposed in the consultant’s fiscal response plan, the approved budget includes a narrative describing another set of cost reductions developed by the city totaling $2.7 million in ongoing costs and $1 million in one-time savings. And even though the budget projected total expenditures that are $1.7 million less than the fiscal year 2019–20 actual expenditures reported by the city, that total does not reconcile to specific actions described in either set of budget reductions. Moreover, the city’s budget does not clearly demonstrate that any of the proposed reductions actually resulted in decreases to budgeted expenditures. For example, the proposed reductions from the fiscal response plan specified that the police department’s budget would be reduced by $595,000 because of the restructuring of police operations, yet the budget presented an increase of $34,000 from prior-year actual costs. When we inquired about this apparent contradiction, the city manager stated that the $595,000 reduction was incorporated in the budget and that the police department’s costs would be higher if the reduction had not been included. However, El Cerrito’s budget document does not present information about amounts that the city initially intended to spend and how the stated reductions affected those amounts. Consequently, the budget document in its current format does not provide city council members with the necessary information to evaluate whether city management’s proposed reductions are reasonable and attainable. Moreover, the absence of a detailed description of the $1.7 million in budget reductions raises concerns as to whether the city actually adjusted its budgeted spending to align with the reductions it claims it will make, and if so, by how much. To provide clarity, the city could have prepared a summary identifying the total budget reductions for fiscal year 2020–21 compared to actual expenditures incurred in fiscal year 2019–20.”
Even though the City Staff keep telling us that they have made 2.7 million in cuts this is NOT reflected in the actual numbers. Many of those cuts seemed to be cuts of positions that were open. (See the state auditor example above). While a position may have been cut there was not a cut in actual expenditures since the position was open and no salary was being paid.
We have no idea what level of cuts have been made. As I stated in the beginning the current budget report states we have saved about 600k in expenditures this year. So something doesn’t work here. Either cuts were not made or other expenditure lines were increasing so much that they were negated. I tend to believe it is a combination of both. Higher pension costs and imaginary position cuts. But this is why the city has to make 2 million in additional cuts because they did not make real cuts before.
I would like to hear a Councilperson challenge this at the next meeting and require that staff show what cuts were made at the Town Hall meeting. Not the imaginary cuts the real cuts. Many of us have been asking for this information for months. Maybe a Councilperson can ask and get it.
On a final note they did not put the State Audit on the Agenda. The agenda is set by the City Manager and the Mayor. Maybe my readers can send Mayor Fadelli an email and let him know what you think of that decision. email@example.com