Budget Problems 2008-09, 2009-10
By Theresa Acerro, president of SWCVCA
On December 1, 2008 the interim City Manager and the Budget Director held a public workshop about the grim news that Chula Vista has a $3.9 million deficit for 2008-09 and is expected to have a $20 million dollar deficit for each of the next five years. (Read Scott Lewis’ article on December 2, 2008)
This meeting at the Civic Center Library had maybe 50 people in attendance. This is the Memo issued by Scott Tulloch the interim City Manager. It contains a long list of proposed cuts in services , which would be the result of up to 135 layoffs.
This obviously would be a total disaster for the city of Chula Vista. Being one of the largest employers, laying off people would just increase the downward economic spiral in the city. Laying off almost all the custodians, gardeners, painters, IT people and other maintenance people would lead to deferred Maintenance, which would cause the city and its new buildings to totally fall apart.
Treasurer’s Explanation of How expensive it is going to be to have to restructure debt payments. (The city’s considerable debt (over $200 million) for the Police Station and Civic Center requires over 200 development permit fees a year to service it. There have been 24 this year.)
The meeting at the Eastlake Library had over 80 people who were extremely mad and made their feelings known. For the lack of $290,000 the library department is proposing closing the Eastlake Library, which is now open evenings and weekends at Eastlake High School. This would mean that there would be NO libraries east of 805, but many, many people.
On December 4, 2008 from 6PM until after 1AM the city council heard a three hour presentation from staff and listened to over 100 members of the public.
The community was organized. There were well over 500 people attending or trying to attend the meeting. A large group of people were there to protest the closing of the Eastlake Library. Another large group were there to protest the closing of the Nature Center. (Susan Watry’s letter) Another large group attended to protest the cutting of the Stretch and Dash after school programs, now run by the library.
Others were protesting the closing of the Parkway Gym and pool. There are only two city run pools in the entire city. Southwestern College also has a pool. 13 high school swim and water polo teams, numerous diving and swim clubs, all the 4th graders in the city, as well as the public have only these pools for lessons, classes, recreational swimming and competitions.
The crowd was very vocal and noisy. Many people stayed and talked, although many gave up and went home before having the opportunity to speak.
I spoke and I suggested these options for preventing layoffs. The council was not interested.
(The job of the city council is to protect and promote the quality of life of the residents and small businesses in the city.
Our jobs housing balance is 15% or more out of balance because members of the city council over the years have accommodated housing developers wanting to change the zoning on their properties from commercial, industrial or resort to residential.
This has led to the city’s inability to pay the cost of ongoing maintenance and staffing of libraries, recreation centers, police and fire. Houses do not provide sufficient income to pay for all the services they demand and need. The pace of housing development in this city has been unsustainable for years.
At the time of annexation the Montgomery area had sufficient commercial and industrial businesses to provide for services for three times its existing population. Today you still can walk a block and a half on south Broadway and visit more than 70 functioning small businesses. This is southwestern Chula Vista. Unfortunately eastern Chula Vista has been developing at an unsustainable rate of housing with low wage retail.
The council needs to stop listening to developers and defend the long-range plans for an improved jobs housing balance in its General Plan. It also needs to accept that the community will not accept a peaker power plant within 350 feet of a home and 1300 feet of a school nor the closing of the Nature Center, nor the closing of a pool, nor the closing of a library, nor the curtailment of the important quality of life programs of our Library and Recreation Departments. These are quality of life issues.
It is also clearly unacceptable to even consider laying off 135 people and sending our economy into a greater downward spiral. Deferring maintenance by eliminating virtually all the people who do it is also a recipe for disaster. There are hard decisions to be made, but protecting the existing residents and small businesses must be the top priority.)
There is no need to lay-off 135 people. What is needed is leadership in obtaining cooperation between the residents, the council and the city’s employees to get the budget back in balance. Each has to give a little in order to make most of the cuts mentioned by the interim City Manager unnecessary.
First of all it is totally irresponsible for the mayor to still have on her budget a Chief of Staff (COS) costing the city $184,788 a year. This is enough money to keep the Parkway pool open. And an Environmental consultant costing $124,903 a year. For a total of $309,691 which is more than the $290,000 needed to keep the Eastlake library open. The mayor also has a Constituent Services person who should be dealing with the constituent inquiries that the Chief Of Staff deals with when he is not visiting with planner friends or planning to teach a certification class for planners or working for his former employer on company time. The Environmental consultant was meant to help with California Coastal Commission issues when the former mayor was on the CCC. No one is now on the CCC so this job needs to be eliminated. (The mayor froze it last year, but never cut it.)
Eliminating the Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which costs $87,229 in staff time and represents no one living or working in the redevelopment area and the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation which costs $139,533 a year and essentially duplicates what the council does as the Redevelopment Agency. This could provide enough money to keep Parkway open.
Keeping the perfectly competent interim City Attorney and interim City Manager until the economy improves would save (City Attorney $329,708, City Manager $371,338) $701,046- more than enough to keep the Nature Center open. We cannot afford to fill these positions in this economy. It was irresponsible of the city council to hire a Planning Director from Santee for $241,200 and a Fire Chief from Iowa for $280,055 when we had two perfectly competent men filling these positions in an interim basis—both of whom are still employed by the city. A Hiring freeze has to apply to all positions to be effective. This $521,255 extra dollars the council choose to spend unnecessarily is more than the $400,000 the important after school Dash and Stretch programs cost. These programs are a lot more important to the children and families in this city than having someone without an interim tag filling positions that were being filled quite competently.
All these suggestions would save $1,237,499 yearly. The other $2.7 million could come from Redevelopment as a partial repayment of the $26 million they owe the city. This would take care of this year’s deficit of $3.9 million.
As for the $20 million for next year: This will take the cooperation of all the city’s employees and the residents.
The employees negotiated and were granted the cost of living wages for 5 years in the future in good faith. They should not have to give them up, but in order to avoid lay offs it seems to me it would be perfectly reasonable for them to agree to delay receiving the promised increases until such time as the city had sufficient funds to pay the raises without making any additional cuts to services.
Env. Consultant $124,903
City Attorney $329,708
City Manager $371,338
delaying pay increase $6,500,000
employee retirement $6,616,200 aver. Of 6%, (aver 5% $5,513,500, 8%
¼ cent sales tax $6,400,000
If employees making more than $100,000 (average pay) and all the council members would pay BEFORE TAXES the entire 8% or 9%(public safety) of the employee contribution to the retirement fund and lower paid people paid a lesser percentage to make an average of 6% we would have $14,353,699 saved.
I would certainly be willing to pay an extra ¼% sales tax for 5 years or so it will take economy to improve if the employees were willing to do their part and the council started acting more responsibly and making it a strongly enforced policy to get the city ‘s jobs and housing back in balance. This would give us the $20 million needed with no lay-offs or program cuts.