City Council has recently set the course for El Cerrito’s finances going forward with a strategy that will eventually begin accruing reserves by 2023 or 2024 — depending upon circumstances with the recession and Covid -19. The approach focuses on cuts and a 3-year recovery, so that important services residents like will not be decimated. Council approved over $600k in cuts for FY 19-20 and over $4 million has been cut for FY 20-21. This included 10% across-the-board cuts in all departments, negotiated cuts with represented and unrepresented labor groups, no COLAs, a hiring freeze, keeping vacancies open, increasing management contributions to PERS, and freezing car allowance payments.
The next few years will be tough and lean. Some city services like landscaping in our parks can legally be funded through Measure H funds, without impacting the fully needed financial support for our pools and parks. Council must still cut $1.5 million or more from programs before October.
For me everything is still on the table as we determine what the future economic forecast looks like. I have publicly said I want to permanently get rid of the monthly car allowances. Additional cuts to certain services and management salaries are still on the table. I have raised the concern that we can’t just cut expenditures, but also have to think about building/seeking new revenues:
- assisting our permit office to expedite building projects and restart housing development along San Pablo Avenue;
- encourage retail and workspace development at BART Plaza TOD development;
- determine if there is a potential revenue advantage to having our fire department charge for EMS calls to El Cerrito and Kensington residents like other neighboring cities;
- conduct regional lobbying to state and federal legislators to secure local funds;
- consider increasing recreational fees for certain programs without reducing accessibility;
- consider the possibility of another cannabis dispensary (first one is still not operating).
Your input to me on this critical issue is welcomed.