Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bearers Of Bad Tidings

As I reported previously, on Tuesday Costa Mesa Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young and City Manager Allan Roeder briefed the City Council on the current financial condition of the cit
y. The news is bleak.

On the positive side, the news is less bleak than it might have been had the city not taken measures prescribed i
n Roeder's 10-point plan last year. Regardless, the news is so dire that even more extreme measures were presented to the council for their consideration as possible ways to avoid scraping the bottom of the Fund Balance barrel to meet our financial obligations in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2010.


Young told the council and assembled staff that all maj
or revenue sources - Sales Tax, Property Tax and Transient Occupancy Tax - are down and, in the case of the Sales Tax and TOT, down significantly. Property Tax showed a slight dip, but is expected to drop like a rock in the next fiscal year.

Roeder presented the council with seven recommendations and strategies to consider:

1 - Freeze on filling all current vacancies (except Police Pat
rol and Sworn Fire to meet minimum standards)

2 - Freeze all Capital Outlay Purchases and Capital Improvement Projects using General Fund Revenues. No, that doesn't mean street projects will stop - most of those are performed through the use of grant funds.

3 - Place a moratorium on new programs and services, expansion of existing programs and services and new projects requiring General Fund support.

4 - Review use of Equipment Replacement fund reserves.

5 - Initiate discussions with Employee Associations regarding wages and benefits. Once again, this is where the money is and there is no reason to expect that additional concessions will not be necessary to balance this year's budget and next year's, as well.

6 - Prepare tax schedules with alternatives and supporting resolutions for Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Business License Tax for the November 2010 ballot. Yep, they are back! Once again the council will be asked to consider placing before the voters an increase in our TOT - and maybe the Business License tax, too. Both are cellar-dwellers when compared to other Orange County cities. In fact, our TOT, at 6%, is near the bottom state-wide. Even a 2% increase will place us below the minimum for the county.

7 - Submit all City Programs and services to City Council for budget prioritization. This is a biggie! This kind of exercise has not been done for nearly a decade. It's going to force the council to make tough decisions about how this city spends it's diminishing dollars.

More than a
year ago Roeder cautioned the council about the precarious condition of our city's finances. He and the staff created a plan that, making some assumptions about issues that were unpredictable, might get us through this year. Sadly, the economy kicked us in the teeth with more ferocity than anticipated. As a result, unless some of the items above are implemented immediately, it will be necessary for the city to dip even more deeply into the Fund Balance account - $9.3 million as opposed to the projected $4.6 - to balance the 2009/2010 budget. And, even more disconcerting, there will be insufficient funds remaining in the account to help with the 2010/2011 budget next summer. If we end up using that $9.3 million this year, the city will have used more than $30 million in Fund Balance to balance our budget in the past two years!

Roeder and staff hopes to have information available
to the council at their meeting on the 16th to be able to make informed decisions on some or all of the proposals above.


As expected, "the usual suspects" stood before the council to ran
t about the budget. Judi and Mike Berry - Perky and Dumbo - attempted to influence council decisions by presenting made-up numbers. Their predictable puppet show is getting very old. They imagine themselves financial experts, yet Perky couldn't get her numbers right and Dumbo was, well, himself - confused and confident.


And, our municipal racist laureate, The Mouth From Mesa North (an aging, frustrated, mediocre actor who throws himself before any camera available), presented h
is blustering self to the council and told them flat out that he could cut 20% from the budget and not cut a single person. His two-minute tirade - it seemed much longer - was the same old stuff about buying and demolishing what he considers slum buildings in the city and complaining about the cost of the city helicopter. Later councilwoman Katrina Foley and City Attorney Kim Barlow set the record straight on his complaints. Much of what he wants to do is illegal - never a worry for him, the alleged lawyer. Police Chief Christopher Shawkey explained why we use the current style of helicopter instead of the Tinkertoy machine The Mouth prefers.

The city is in deep guano and things are only going to get worse. Forty of the 54 people who opted for the retirement incentive will not be replaced. In addition, if the hiring freeze proposed above is implemented it will begin to affect service levels almost immediately. Things like streets being swept less frequently, delays at the Planning counter and slower responses to every kind of inquiry or call for service - except public safety calls - can be expected. Roeder will attempt to quantify those impacts for the council at their next meeting.


It's important for the residents of this city to communicate with our elected leaders to let them know what OUR priorities are in these difficult financial times. Some tough choices will be made in the next few months, so now is the time to let the City Council know how you feel. Call them at 714-754-5285 or send them your opinion via email at

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Blogger Humberto said...

hey Geoff, where did you get Millard's picture. He looks like he hasn't eaten for week. Might be unemployed like Mansoor

2/12/2010 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

It was taken from the Study Session, while he was in full rant...

2/13/2010 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger familyguy said...

Did anybody notice during the Jan 25 planning commission study session the city Building Official say he put in $125,000 plus into the 2010-11 budget for..."in car computers and printers for the code enforcement staff?" what? seriously? does he not realize the city has a money shortage?

2/13/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Hey, cmtruth, welcome back! You're correct.

familyguy, I did notice that. Don't know the details - maybe it will be a productivity enhancement tool. They're running with a smaller staff now... we'll see. Maybe the council will chop it.

2/13/2010 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets face it.with the down turn in building projects the Planning Commission doesn't have anything else to do but try and re-do the RV parking ordinance, and tell everyone (including Code Enforcement)how to comply with Title 20 of the Municipal Code. Riggy & Mensinger need to get a life ! Let Code Enforcement do their job. City Council, not the Planning Commissioners should be giving City Staff direction. Take a look at the video of the Jan 25th
Planning study session. Good grief !!

2/14/2010 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

OK, I made an exception on the above post. I don't permit "Anonymous" to be used here. The point in this post is excellent.

2/14/2010 10:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Mongo said...

Sorry Pot Stirrer re: the above Annon. post. That was my first time responding. Lesson learned !!

Too bad you are not an official "reporter" for the Pilot. I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work !!

2/15/2010 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Mongo, welcome. I appreciate your views - and "Mongo" is easier to type than "Anonymous", isn't it? :-)

2/15/2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger familyguy said...

The whole planning commission stinks, as reported here on the cauldron there is an "incestuous" relationship amongst the developers that make up the majority. And who can forget the 2006 incident with Mensinger and his phony toy badge trying to pass himself as a real Deputy Sheriff. The power structure in this city is a little scary.

2/16/2010 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Familyguy, I'm unaware of that alleged transgression... can you provide details and a published reference?

2/16/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger familyguy said...

A quickie google search of mensinger found the story,here are a couple of links. It's frightening they let this clown have any position of authority, perceived or otherwise.

2/16/2010 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Familyguy, thanks for those links. I do recall seeing both of them in the past. They certainly do affirm Mensinger's propensity to bully folks from the dais, which I've commented on several times in the past.

2/16/2010 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

the Planning Commission in cahoots with developers? that's like the time a Commissioner was also an actual investor in a local restaurant, which wasn't disclosed until later thanks to a city staffer who informed us on the downlow... it's all about who you know around here!

2/16/2010 06:55:00 PM  

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