Financial Update – October 2020

Final budget vote. Oct 6, 2020

After many months of reviewing similar city budget numbers and themes, we may be moving tonight to pass the ‘20 – ‘21 budget. That’s good news!

Hopefully it will become clear to our residents — and financial scrutinizers — that this City Council is resolved to take action on our finances and move ahead with a process to get it done:

  • we have moved from a two-year budget document to an annual cycle;
  • we committed to monthly reviews of our finances and to make changes when and if needed;
  • we cut more than $4 million in services, cut 10% from all departments, establish a hiring freeze and employee furloughs, renegotiate labor contracts, increase management PERS contributions.

Tonight, we may approve an additional $1.5 million in cuts as part of a fiscal response plan that will keep this city on a Spartan path well into the next election — 4 years from now — when hopefully reserves will begin to start materializing;

And now we prepare for a State Audit which I believe can be additionally helpful in getting this city BACK ON TRACK.

I happen to be one of the two newest council members – but I also happen to be the only incumbent up for reelection this time. So, I’ve gotten a lot of advice on email and social media – where most have suggested a big NO vote.

But to me THAT would be the EASY political vote…the easy path…easy to vote against past decisions and actions that have not turned out so good financially.

If we are stalled here again without moving forward — then what? Months of more of council process and review and confusion before the State Auditor comes to review our books and our commitment to becoming solvent? We need to demonstrate action – even if it is just a beginning.

The harder, but necessary vote to me, amidst all the confusion and upcoming economic challenges we will face — is to commit to rolling up our sleeves and establish a new budget starting point for reviewing and improving our city’s finances. Not perfect…but practical.

SO, I AM SATISFIED ENOUGH WITH OUR PROCESS AHEAD TO VOTE TO MOVE THE BUDGET DOCUMENT ALONG TONIGHT.

I WANT TO EMPHASIZE — IT DOESN’T MEAN I AM SATISFIED BY ANY MEANS. I HAVE A LOT OF CONCERNS —

As we work to get El Cerrito Back on Track, themessage I have to our city manager as we go through our monthly drills is to:

  • keep all options for further cuts on the table;
  • have back up plans READY should we need to act. Plans B and C should be on your desk — ready to go if what we pass tonight does not succeed the new economic challenges;
  • focus in 2021 on realistic revenue options for our city; let’s get the community involved;
  • and provide council with structural changes to our city that will assist in new more frugal sustainable goals going forward.

I have discussed this road ahead with our City Manager. And, I agree with her that the path doesn’t involve more taxes— but must involve STRUCTURAL change. Moving from a Full-Service City — to an appropriate “pay for the services we can afford” city.

And structural changes to our police & fire departmentsmust be part of that priority. If I am re-elected I will be watching and seeking change that makes El Cerrito fiscally stronger, while also assuring that our public will be safer.

We don’t need more months of reviewing what we’ve done so far. Let’s take the first solid step in a very un-solid world and move forward to our state audit.

Let’s learn from it and act if appropriate. As I have said previously, the next four years will be ones of coping and not seeking new services. We must all accept that. But this can also be the time to establish a new infrastructure and attitude that helps to make El Cerrito stronger.

A NO vote tonight doesn’t get us there in a timely fashion.

I HOPE TO CONTINUE THE ONGOING PROCESS WITH THIS COUNCIL OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS TO MAKE OUR FINANCES SOLVENT & SUSTAINABLE.

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