Will the Community Fight For Fiscal Responsibility?-El Cerrito Budget Update Part 3

This is the final part of a three-part series updating residents on activities related to the El Cerrito fiscal crisis. This is the final part of a three-part series updating residents on activities related to the El Cerrito fiscal crisis. In other big news, the Finance Director has resigned and has left the building. While a new Finance Director with more forecasting experience and experience in addressing fiscal issues could be a great thing for this city we also understand the City Manager makes this hiring decision. This City Manager has been historically non-transparent and not super willing to acknowledge past mistakes or shift the trajectory. This could be an opportunity for her to hire someone who can turn this ship around and make the tough decisions. Or she could hire someone that continues to deny issues and have fights with members of the FAB when they challenge their untruths. I hope Council encourages her to hire wisely.

The response to the State Audit also reported that “the incumbent Finance Supervisor will be retired as of September 30, and the position is proposed to be replaced by a Budget Manager position that will specifically focus on budgeting and financial analysis for the City, allowing City Management to be responsive to the City Council and the public in communicating budget strategies and information. This classification is being developed and is expected to be presented to the City Council for approval in October, and staff will seek to fill this position by the end of the calendar year.”

If we fill both of those positions with these new skill sets it could be transformative for the city. The lack of forecasting has been a great disservice to the city. As of the date of this report, I do not believe this position has yet been presented to the Council. These positions need to both be filled ASAP as the City now does not have a functioning Finance Department. I know an interim Director was going to be put in place soon. The Community needs to stay on this issue as it could be used as an excuse not to produce promised information and reports.

To end this series here are a few things to keep an eye on. 

  1. Does the City Council get regular budget reports? When the Ad-Hoc Committee reported back they detailed what they wanted to see in reports and stated that these would start in November. Given the Finance Director has left I anticipate the City Manager using that as an excuse to not have a comprehensive report. They have already used that as a reason to cancel the Financial Advisory Board meetings. 
  2. Will they fill the open Financial Advisory Board seat? It seems rather convenient that they decided to reassess the Board and Commission rules right at the time the FAB had an opening. Then they added criteria that applicants need to have attended some meetings. At the last council meeting, they said it might be February before the seat was filled. 
  3. Will the Council push the City Manager to hire a competent and experienced Finance Director who has the skill set to do accurate forecasting and present information to the community in a comprehensible manner? 
  4. Will the Council assign a team to do the City Manager’s evaluation that evaluates her performance and brings in the factors of community trust and how she is working on the budget?

As I have said before change will only happen if the community continues to hold the Council responsible for the fiscal state of the city finances

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