A First Peek At The 2014/2015 Budget
Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa City Council held a study session at which Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch and Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent unveiled their preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014. You can read the entire 362-page document HERE. Late in the meeting Hatch committed to have several more hard copies of the Budget prepared and made available for review/check-out in the City Clerk's office. Four of the five council members were present. Gary Monahan was absent.
It was a sparsely-attended event, where staffers outnumbered residents nearly 3-1, but there was good information to be heard by the dozen residents who did make it, and some of the discussions were enlightening. I did see announced council candidates Harold Weitzberg and Jay Humphrey in the audience. I didn't see Lee Ramos, Tony Capitelli, Katrina Foley or Chris Bunyan. Dunivent is obviously an old pro and his presentation was effortless and thorough. For the straight scoop on the meeting read Bradley Zint's excellent coverage HERE. Theoretically, both PowerPoint presentations used last night, as well as a couple of the handouts, will be available on the City website soon.
Here's the short version.... we have a balanced All Funds budget of just a hair under $140 million, up just over 6% from the previous year. The General Fund Budget is projected at $109.4 million, also up 6%. We will spend almost $20 million on Capital Improvement Projects, which is slightly less than what we will spend on Retirement - $20,799,000, which is up more than $15%.
MAJOR REVENUE SOURCES UP
Both Sales Tax and Property Tax revenues are projected to be up by 3.39% and 2.01% respectively. Those two revenue sources, if the projections hold, will result in revenue of almost $75 million or about 68% of the General Fund Budget. The budgeted number for Consulting is $3.3 million, up 55%.
CALPERS RATES UP AGAIN
We learned that the Employer contribution to the CalPERS rates have jumped again. The following chart shows what percent of payroll the City pays, by employee group:
FY 13-14 FY14-15
Miscellaneous 27.383% 29.783%
Fire 45.618% 47.292%
Police 38.542% 41.456%
We learned that the headcount will go from 466 employees by the end of this fiscal year to 476 by June 30, 2015. This number is down from a high of 611 at the peak, before the economic downturn. The Fire Department will be down 12 positions, and their budget is down 6.51%. The Police Department will be up 4 positions and their budget is up 9.54%. The CEO's office will be up 3 and his budget is up 20%.
SENIOR CENTER DOLLARS
We learned that the City will spend more than $500,000 on the Senior Center - $200,000 on capital projects and the remainder on support - staffing, consultants, etc., as the city takes over the operations of that distressed organization.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS
Of that $19,421,001 budgeted for Capital Improvement Projects some of the big ticket items on the list of 40 selected include:
- Citywide Street Improvements - $4,256,307
- Citywide Storm Drain Improvements - $2,090,000
- Placentia Avenue Medians - $1,150,000
- Neighborhood Community Center/Library Development - $1,000,000
We learned that Fire Station #1 is badly in need of repairs or replacement, but there is no money in this budget for that project. We learned that we have all six new paramedic ambulances, but that only two of them have been deployed. We are unable to deploy two more (two will apparently remain in reserve) because staffing is still short of what is necessary.
TAP DANCING AROUND THE NUMBERS
We learned that, when it comes to public safety staffing, some senior city staffers and some council members tend to speak in tongues. A big deal was made of the fact that we have 136 sworn police officer positions authorized - just what Management Partners recommended three years ago. Although Hatch did a major tap dance around the issue, he never did tell us that we have 25 vacancies and a dozen officers injured, many of whom may never return. He didn't really tell us of the impact of the known retirements and pending departures to other jurisdictions. Basically, the number of cops on duty today has not been this low since the 1980s.
NO FORUM FOR PRIORITIZING
We learned that councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis didn't think THEIR priorities had been reflected in this budget document. She suggested to Mayor Jim Righeimer that, rather than attempt to read her mind, there should have been a forum for the council members to formally express their individual priorities BEFORE the budget was cobbled together.
POTHOLES BEFORE PUBLIC SAFETY
We learned that Righeimer continues to crow about all the street paving that has been done on his watch, conveniently ignoring the fact that much of it had already been planned before he took office. He also ignored the fact that dollars used for some of those repairs came at the expense of public safety positions not filled.
MENSINGER GUARANTEES A LIBRARY
We learned that Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger guaranteed to library activist Mary Ellen Goddard that, "I'm committed - you will get a library". I guess that means he'll fork over the estimated $40 million it will take for a brand new library. Or, if he's going to do it on the cheap, he'll pony up the estimated $6 million it will take to convert the Neighborhood Community Center into a library. What a guy!
We also learned that Mensinger is too lazy to actually open up the budget document and look for answers. In fact, although he portrays himself as a "budget guy", he appears to just be making it up as he goes along.
BUDGET WORKSHOP TODAY
So, today, Wednesday, May 14th, Hatch and Dunivent will hold a community budget workshop in Conference Room 1A beginning at 5:30 p.m. for 90 minutes to answer in detail any questions residents might have about the budget. See you there.