More Budget Drama
Today, Thursday, Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch and Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young will hold their annual Community Budget Workshop at 6:00 p.m. in Conference Room 1A at City Hall. In years past this meeting was held following the adoption of the budget and was meant simply as a briefing for interested residents. Last year 12 of us attended and the three previous years only had three members of the public in attendance.
EFFLUENT WILL HIT THE OSCILLATING UNIT
This time around, though, the budget has not yet been adopted. In fact, it's my understanding that we may need to wear rain gear on Tuesday because there will be a lot of stuff hitting the fan.
I think it's important to understand what the Jim Righeimer-led City Council is trying to do. He campaigned on a platform of "pension reform", but can't do squat about it because the bargaining units contracts don't expire until after his first (and, hopefully, only) term expires. So, he's trying to do the next best thing and that's using a fabricated budget crisis to flush as many employees out of the city as possible and thereby get rid of those nasty, inconvenient pensions.
NOT FILLING VACANCIES
At the very end of the Study Session Tuesday, which you can watch on streaming video HERE, Righeimer again tipped his hand (I think I'd like to play poker with this guy). If you go to the site and drag the scroll bar across to 04:03:30 you'll see him say the following: If you want to look at this 4.1 million dollars. I understand, like I said, the fire we really don't save because we have minimum manning, we can't lower the amount of people here and if we lower them they're going to end up being there. I'm not looking to fill any of these fire positions. I clearly don't want to fill any positions, especially in the fire, until we get some kind of second tier in place for new hires. I don't want to continue on this bizarre process of retiring people at 50 years of age.
FIRE SLOTS HELD HOSTAGE
From the list of 28 such positions within the city workforce totaling more that $4 million in costs, there are eight (8) approved but vacant Fire Department positions that he's going to hold hostage until the association capitulates and changes their contract to install a 2-tier pension plan for new hires. This, of course, violates the contract, but he doesn't care - they're bumping the legal budget from $600,000 this year to $1 million for the new budget in anticipation of just this kind of hi-jinks. And, of course, there's still the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority that is pending - and we don't know how Righeimer's posture on this issue will affect that potential contract.
HATCH'S GUT PUNCH
In the Daily Pilot today, HERE, there's a good piece about the punch in the gut Righeimer delivered to Hatch at the end of the Study Session when he brushed aside Hatch's balanced budget and handed him an additional $2.9 million to come up with. This is how the council has been playing this game. They give Hatch a target and when he hits the bulls-eye they just pick up the target and move it further away and instruct him to keep on shooting.
CMTAX THROWS A BOMB
And now comes word of the latest shoe to drop in this drama. Today the City Council and staff received a copy of a PowerPoint presentation, HERE, from Colin McCarthy's Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association - the fiscal megaphone of the OC GOP for Costa Mesa - that will almost certainly "blow-up" the budget process next Tuesday. We got a little hint of what's in this presentation from Righeimer last Tuesday (Again, I'd like to play poker with him) during the mini-bombshells he dropped near the end of the Study Session.
THE BEST AND THE WORST
In the history of our city there has never been a budget cycle that has made more information available to more people than this one. There has also never been one filled with so much chicanery.
BUDGET LIKELY TO BE DELAYED
I fear that, with the increased fiscal demands already being handed to Hatch by Righeimer, and this added mountain of manure to be presented by CMTax, there is NO CHANCE of a balanced budget being approved on Tuesday, the 21st. That means that the council must meet again before the deadline of July 1st - probably on the 28th - to have a budget completed. This stinks!