And yes, there are spending increases. Not surprisingly, most of them are for CalPERS, employee benefits, and all of that overtime. The city's past shenanigan era giveaways to Sierra Madre's municipal employee unions are today literally blowing up the budget, but then you probably already knew about that. Here is where the real dough is being spent, and at ever higher numbers.
This should have been dealt with a few years ago, but somehow was ignored. I guess this kind of stuff wasn't a priority during the administrations of Mayors Buchanan, Mosca, Moran and Walsh. After all, there was that restroom problem at Memorial Park to deal with. And how many here lost sleep over the issue of where to store the pingpong table at the Hart Park House?
So what is all of this really telling us? That City Hall never was very serious about the UUT sunsetting. Or somehow lived in a world of special denial where it was possible to believe this wasn't ever going to happen. The result being that no matter how much money they're going to get now, it can never be enough.
And now with the UUT beginning to sunset its way back down to 6%, there is not a chance in Hades that City Hall will be getting the cash they need to sustain this level of spending.
Here are the numbers from the Community Services documents.
I ran these numbers past Robert Fellner at Transparent California (link). They ponder the budgets and spending of a few thousand city governments in California and Nevada rather deeply, so I figured a dispassionate outside look into the financial goings on here in the Foothill Village might be valuable.
And while Robert is the first to admit that he is not as intimately aware of the internal goings on here as maybe you might be, the guy does know his stuff. Here are a few things that jumped out at him.
The library costs nearly as much as fire services?!
They really can’t do much about CalPERS now that they are locked in; part of the reason that type of system is terrible for the public sector. Politicians can enact it, once it becomes costly they are long out of office and other people pay for it. It really depends on the specifics of the town.
If people there love their library, that’s a cost to bear, but it seems really high.
I’m sure they could do much more to cut the cost of healthcare. They could ask employees to contribute more. They could immediately stop paying the employee’s share of CalPERS contributions for police. That would save a bunch.
Enrolling the part-time firefighters into the reduced CalPERS rate to save on OT seems like a decent idea.
I don’t know specifics about crime and the police there, but it seems like a lot of cops for a small town. Reducing size of department by even 1 or 2 employees would generate huge savings.
Obviously City officials are never going to suggest you eliminate their jobs or reduce their pay – so all of this needs to come externally from the commissioners and elected officials.
I don’t know enough about the specifics of Sierra Madre to definitely say what should be cut and what shouldn’t. But obviously all city-produced reports/suggestions are always going to be made with the best interest of city employees in mind.
It does seem like 2015 is turning out to be a very interesting year.
Pasadena Star News ... Experts: Arcadia officials violated California’s open meetings law - Arcadia officials violated the Brown Act when they made three key policy decisions in closed session, law and governance experts said Friday.
At a meeting last week, officials voted to shelve a comprehensive update to the city’s residential and commercial zoning codes, postpone the Neighborhood Impacts Committee and move forward with a citywide historic preservation survey, sans the Highland Homeowner’s Association.
City Attorney Steven Deitsch reported the decisions at the City Council meeting May 5. Deitsch said the decisions came as a result of a lawsuit filed against the city targeting mansionization.
Kelly Aviles, open government attorney and vice president of Californians Aware (link), said just because there are ties between the lawsuit and policies does not mean the council can go into closed session to talk about it.
“You can’t make decisions that are tangential to the lawsuit because you happen to be in litigation, and you cannot do an end-run around the public’s right to comment or be involved in policy changes just because they relate to the litigation,” she said.
Open Government Advocate Gil Aguirre said the city attorney should have advised officials to make the policy changes and then each item should have subsequently been put on an agenda, discussed and voted on in open session.
“The problem you have is that they effectively made three important policy decisions that affect the community, and yet the community was excluded from ever having an opportunity to address these officials before the decision was made,” Aguirre said. “This sort of secret behavior is exactly what the Brown Act intends to stop.”
(Mod: Gil Aguirre and Kelly Aviles back on the front lines. There is hope for Arcadia yet. Link to the rest of the article here.)