As Ventura’s Budget Losses Grow, Budget Transparency Is Questioned
VENTURA’S CUPBOARD –IS BARE
[THE $15 MILLION PROJECTED BUDGET LOSS]
On March 15, 2010 Mayor Fulton invited community leaders to attend a BUDGET WORKSHOP to help decide where to make cuts in the 2010-11 budget to compensate for an $11,000,000 PROJECTED LOSS. This statement was predicated on an estimate by the City Council that the City would face fixed expenses of $96 million with income of $85 million. Well, it turns out that the income figures were wrong. Revenues are below normal and the City will receive less than $81,000,000 for the fiscal year 2010-11 according to estimates provided by the Finance and Technology Department and the Deputy Mayor.
Please recall good reader the words of Councilman Summers in the fall of 2008, when he, together with councilman Monahan, Brennan and Fulton voted to increase the fire department pensions from 2% to 3% at age 55, and stated “We are only increasing it by 1%”, and “we will only be paying 50% of our budget to the police and fire departments”. An increase from 2% to 3% is really a 50% increase in retirement pay.
Here is a comparison of the 2008-09 adopted budget with the 2009-10 adopted budget as published. Assuming we receive $81 million in revenue, which is improbable, 58.7% of the general fund revenue is spent on public safety, without factoring in the cost of the other employees.
|Police Dept. Cost||$31,478,979||$ 29,528,499|
|Fire Dept. Cost||$19,259,971||$18,036,231|
Former Councilmember Summers lost his re-election bid to the City Council, and now wants to be your County Treasurer?
MORE ON THE FIREFIGHERS PENSION INCREASE
As mentioned above the City Council, on a vote of 4 to 3, increased the fire fighters pension benefits from 2% to 3% even though they knew they did not have the money to fund it. The vote resulted in an approval of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the union. They received their increase, but nobody knew what it would cost.
Then budget problems arose, negotiations began and the Firefighters agreed to postpone their increase for 15 months. Of course, two of the Council members running for reelection (Monahan and Summers) acted as though pension increase had not been created, or did not exist, because it was not yet implemented. Not implementing something is not the same as deferring it. That deferral is up on July 1, 2010, at which time the increase will go into effect.
Now CALPERS steps into the picture. They take the position that this MOU is not binding upon them, because there was no actuarial report on the cost of increasing the pension benefits when it was adopted by the City Council. Somehow four Councilmen (Monahan, Fulton, Summers and Brennan) felt they could increase the benefits, which they knew were not funded, and push the cost of those benefits onto CALPERS without contributing any more money to the pension fund. Well, Duhhh!
This issue will be on the City Council Agenda on April 26, 2010, at which time it is expected that an actuarial cost report will be presented in order to meet the CALPERS requirements. It is predictable that the City will have to increase their contributions significantly to meet the new cost of this increase, or figure how to back out of the MOU with the firefighters.
Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into Ollie! Are there ever any consequences when these costly errors happen? Does anyone ever lose their job, or do the taxpayers just keep paying the legal expenses to fix these problems ?
THE VENTURA BUDGET PROCESS
[CLEAR AS MUD]
If you are a person interested in analyzing the budget for the City of Ventura you are in for a real experience in frustration. Up until the fiscal year 2008-09 the budget prepared by Finance & Technology was in a classic format – a real income and expense statement – with supporting schedules and line item detail so that you could make a reasonable determination of where we stood financially – where our income was derived and where we spent the money.
Not anymore. The format for the fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11 is now different. Starting with the Budgeting for Outcomes program, instigated by the City Manger, the Finance & Technology (F&T) department published a Budget Book which you can view on-line. The format for that document, euphemistically called a “budget”, was a result of a directive to F&T to prepare an “All Funds Summary”. Difficult now to determine what is in fact happening financially. It is perplexing and confusing when the city mixes the general fund income and expenses with the enterprise funds and expenses. If you want to know the general fund income and expenses in detail for the current fiscal year, such as the specific costs of public safety employees you cannot obtain that information. Perhaps our readers can help us interpret this “budget book”.
What happened to transparency?
B. Alviani S. Doll J. Tingstrom
K. Corse B. McCord T. Cook
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