The questions that remain from the Town Hall meeting

The Town Hall supplemental materials were posted. Starting on page 37 are the chat questions that were asked during the meeting. Some were marked live answered and many were just acknowledged with no answer given. Those I am copying here. Some are comments that weren’t acknowledged and I am posting those also. I have bolded some of the questions I see as particularly important to be answered. Next Tuesday April 20th at 7pm is the next Council meeting and item 7A is the city’s response to the State Auditors report.

Questions

  1. To Gabe Quinto and then to Mayor Fadelli For the period 2015-19, what in your opinion prevented City Council from foreseeing, managing, and mitigating the current financial crisis?

2. Travel and conference attendance wasn’t frozen until THIS year? Why?

3. You have discretion over 23 management positions. I note that some positions enjoyed large increases over the last 3 to 4 years. Why? Note this was indicated as live answered. I remember the City Manager saying that she did not give a certain type of raise but I don’t recall this being fully answered

4. How can I (educated citizens) recommend or suggest ways we can increase City revenues through new projects that Improve and support the community?

5. Have we considered selling the pool? In a few years it will be an even larger liability due to needed repairs

6. Can you be clear as to exactly what the dollar amount is that the City needs to reduce in 2020-21 and 2021-22? Is this taking into account the Federal $4..8 million bailout? Would this result in an increase in the General Reserves?

7. I also have a question that I have not heard explained: what are the consequences to El Cerrito if we do not meet the Auditor’s recommendations?

8. Why did expenditures go up $10 million from 2014-2019?

9. Will there be additional meetings that ARE in Spanish (and Mandarin)? This is a huge inequity by design.

10. To know how to change our city’s financial culture we need to know where we went wrong. As the city manager presented, our “goal b” since 2013 is longterm financial stability. What is the city council and city manager’s SPECIFIC examples of what has gone wrong in the past and how they will change for the future? How, SPECIFICALLY, will you provide accountability and consequences for now and the future?

11. When you say the city is able to pay its expenses—is that with actual money at hand, or are you using money you have borrowed?

12. What human and financial resources need be allocated in order to come up with a viable corrective action strategy (including whether more skilled and objective professionals need be consulted or added to our management team)? We need – and deserve! – stronger analysis by the council based on reviews of accurate and sufficient data. To the extent that the Council concludes we have need new perspectives and impartial advice it needs to move now! Is City Attorney involved?

Comments:

1. Expenditures again doesn’t include a breakdown for how much we are required to spend on health care or retirement. This should be clear so people know what is and is not fixed.

2. Many of the “savings” were just costs that were deferred to next year. If the city had retained a two-year budget, suddenly many of the “savings” would disappear

3. Characterizing not getting raises as a sacrifice during this last year when many residents have taken large pay cuts or losing their jobs is insensitive. I appreciate it but it is fairer to say they are doing their part to keep the city afloat, not a sacrifice.

4. Can we discuss here that the Rec Dept, that you want to cut costs in, is a REVENUE GENERATING dept? The Police Dept costs large outweigh whatever “revenue” it brings.

5. Are you all going to answer the many great questions in this chat or are we going to have to continue to listen to speeches. The Mayor said this was to be a listening session. I thought he meant listening to us not us listening to the CM and the chiefs.

6. Manager Pinkos, this was a yes or no question. This answer is too much fluff. This type of response loses people’s attention and seems you’re going around just plainly stating why we are not seeing ACTUAL budget numbers.

7. The current system isn’t working. (26 people) of City Management take up the majority of the budget. We need to change how we offer services within the city and use more volunteers to provide services . Volunteers can offer time at the senior center, community center, community pool, recycle center, library, city hall, police department, fire department, and with basic services such as cleaning parks and streets. This will help to balance the city budget and change the culture. Local government shouldn’t be run like a business– it is a community serving the community

8. For future presentations about the city budget by the Financial Manager: the presentations need to be much more accessible to the public. Do not use acronymns like “TRAN” over & over without explaining them (it turns out they are loans. Do not post a detailed breakdown on the Zoom screen that many of us cannot view on our screens (unless it making it clear in advance where to see these charts). Tell us the facts and show them clearly … I heard someone else ask for PowerPoints & that would help.

9. I would like to reiterate my support for all of the recommendations in the
State Auditor’s report and urge you to get the city’s financial house in order. Structural changes are needed in how we prepare and carry out our budget, especially with the
monitoring of spending. I do not want slick answers. I need to see the action steps
and the action taken. If my personal budget was in this much of a mess, I would have long since had to cut my expenses!

10. Pensions: unfunded liability, according to Mayor Pro Tem Quinto, is over $70 million. This is NOT for existing employees.

11. Were the City Manager and councilmembers to admit her own culpability in this situation, it would go a long way to building trust with the taxpayers and residents of this city.

12. Thanks to attending the last City Council meeting, I found out where to find and read the State Auditor’s report (on the City Manager’s website, but not well advertised). I understand the Auditor’s report is supposed to be on a “Financial Transparency” page — I hope it is there now. ALSO – how does the city reach out these days to get citizens involved in attending city council meetings. Unless you are watching the website regularly, you might not even know the CRISIS we are in!

13. To City Manager. Why haven’t you eliminated the Finance Director position and taken full responsibility of the City’s Financials. This would be a savings of 200k +. We are small town… City Manager needs to take on more responsibilities of the Financials of over spending.

14. Mayor and City Council, I would like to reiterate my support for all of the
recommendations in the State Auditor’s report and urge you to get the city’s financial house in order. Structural changes are needed in how we prepare and carry out our budget, especially with the monitoring of spending.





2 thoughts on “The questions that remain from the Town Hall meeting

  1. Response from the Mayor to Unanswered Question 1. Note that I asked Quinto first because he was on council during 2015-19, but to date he has not responded to my direct email to him.

    From: Paul Fadelli
    Subject: Re: question posed during town hall
    Date: April 15, 2021 at 8:58:36 AM PDT
    To: Jan W

    Have a great day Jan. PF

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Apr 14, 2021, at 9:26 PM, Jan W wrote:

    So what you’re saying is that the conditions that got us into this mess haven’t been fixed, though you’re “reviewing” it. Good to know you guys are on top of it (not)

    On Apr 14, 2021, at 1:10 PM, Paul Fadelli wrote:

    Dear Jan W,

    The El Cerrito fiscal problems have resulted in a review of our budget and process because of troubling budget decisions over the past decade. The recent state audit has also provided important recommendations to get our city back on track.
    The job is far from over and hard decisions remain.
    Thanks for your continued involvement here in El Cerrito.

    Paul

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Apr 10, 2021, at 11:58 AM, Jan W wrote: [in the Zoom chat box]

    To Mayor Fadelli: Have the conditions or circumstances which prevented City Council from foreseeing, managing, and mitigating the current financial crisis during the period 2015-19 been ameliorated?

    City of El Cerrito 11:19 AM
    please feel free to email Mayor Pro Tem Quinto at pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us to ask his direct feedback on your question. Thank you.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Jan Woo Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: