Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Balancing The Budget With Bodies

At its Study Session Tuesday night the Costa Mesa City Council, and those few of us in the audience, heard the staff inform the council that the budget being proposed is balanced by slashing staff.  You can read Joe Serna's coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE.


In a nutshell, under the proposed Budget (All Funds) the City will have estimated revenues of $126,854,473 and proposed expenditures of $132, 676,130, meaning that $5,821,657 of the Fund Balance must be used to meet the proposed obligations.

Most of the time we just talk about the General Fund Budget.  This current budget shows a deficit of nearly $1.2 million.  The staff report and attachments, HERE, provides an explanation of how Hatch and his staff plan to balance that segment of the budget.  A big part of the problem reaching a balanced budget is the State's decision to close Redevelopment Agencies and raid those funds.  It's going to be painful.

For example, the loss of RDA funds means the loss of $660,000 in salary dollars, which will mean the layoff of four (4) individuals plus three (3) others for a total of seven (7) in that area alone.

And, as you will see on Attachment A, seven (7) presently vacant - or soon-to-be-vacant positions will be eliminated.  On the bright side, two additional code enforcement positions will be authorized.

And, the City has decided to abandon the In-House Street Rehabilitation Program to save more than a half million dollars next year.  That means three (3) Senior Maintenance Workers will be cut for more than $220,000 in salary and benefit costs and another $334,000 in materials (asphalt) and street grinding costs.  CEO Hatch said every effort will be made to find other positions in The City for those folks.  Steve Mensinger suggested the two Code Enforcement slots, but it is unlikely that those folks would bring the right skill set to those jobs.  It's a great irony that the mantra of the current majority for the past 18 months has been fixing infrastructure and now we slash the in-house crew that does just that.  Curious, to say the least.  I guess I'll look for campaign contributions from paving companies on certain candidate's forms.

This budget includes more than $20 million in capital projects, representing 15% of the total budget.  This, of course, was the goal of this council - to "fix" stuff.  And, they're stashing $500,000 aside just in case one of the "problem properties" (motels) comes available.  And, of course, they've got another $1 million in Hatch's slush, er, contingency fund again.  That's kind of like your piggy bank... if they want a special project done they just direct Hatch to dig into that little pot for some cash.

No mention was made, except by Wendy Leece, about the probable decline in service as a result of this budget.  For example, the Costa Mesa Police Department is now running below their current authorized sworn officer strength and, according to Hatch, will immediately launch a recruitment campaign to try to fill open slots.  This process, which involves significant expenditure of time for screening and testing PLUS a successful tour in the Police Academy before a new officer can begin functioning, is way, way behind the curve.  It takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months from start to finish and we anticipate large numbers of retirements well before that window is closed.  AND, according to this council, they can't hire anyone new until a 2nd pension tier is in place... and we're sure not there yet.

Same with the Fire Department.  Interim Chief Tom Arnold's re-structuring plan sounds very workable - it would reduce the number of firefighters from 87 to 81.  However, we are presently nine (9) short, so we'd have to hire three new firefighters to meet that staffing level and we've got the same problem - the council refuses to permit new hires until a 2nd pension tier is in place.

In both those cases, with the CMPD and CMFD, it means more overtime required to provide safe coverage in our city.  And, this council just loves to criticize our public safety folks as greedy when they earn large overtime numbers to help keep our city safe.  You may recall Steve Mensinger's recent bonehead remark about "Christmas In July" when referring to the overtime our police folks must work to support the Barrett-Jackson Auction and the Orange County Fair.  He, and the majority on the council, fail to recognize that our public safety folks would prefer NOT to work all that overtime - they have families that would like to see them occasionally.  But, because the council has its heels dug in, overtime is demanded.

So, according to Hatch's staff report, the budget will be "balanced" by making the changes he outlined, including eliminating 15 positions.  The council will take a final vote on this budget next Tuesday, June 19th.

During the discussion several council members implied that the public safety organizations have refused to sit down and discuss changes in their contracts - specifically the 2nd tier pension plan.  This is false, but that doesn't keep them from saying it.  And, since two of them will be running for another seat on the council this summer and fall, you can expect that lie to be repeated over and over and over.

As has been the case at most meetings, one or more of our council members have exhibited ignorance, insensitivity or flat out stupidity in their comments.  Last night was no exception.

At one point, when addressing the head-count reduction over the past few years caused by the economic downturn that began in 2008, Mensinger observed that it went from 650 to 450.  Of course, Hatch had to correct him.  The high head count was 611 a couple years ago and it is now 433 according to staff Monday.  But what the heck, Steve, what's a few dozen people one way or the other!  Just a little - to use his favorite word - disingenuous, wouldn't you say?  Talk about ignorant arrogance!

Following a brief comment by Wendy Leece about being concerned about public safety, Mayor Eric Bever had this exchange with Hatch:
"Mr. Hatch, would you say that this council, to a person, is dedicated to keeping this city safe?"
"I'd, ah, this council obviously more than not will speak for themselves and I would be, ah, I think from my seat as the CEO public safety is vital.  We don't, as a management team, we don't see that just as the police department responsibility or a fire department responsibility but the entire organization needs to support the police and fire operations and what they do, how they use more none-sworn personnel or creating a neighborhood improvement task force that looks to solve problems and take them out of the police department's hands and provide a broader level of support to them.  The fire department is what the organization can do and we're doing some of those things.  We all need to work as a full organization to meet all those needs as we move forward."  I loved that last sentence...  I smiled...

Perhaps the most painfully truthful statement made from the dais last night was appointed councilman Mensinger's observation as he attempted to justify the budget cuts, "I hope the general public understands as they listen to this, the truth is somewhere in between what you hear up here and the document that you're looking at and I think everybody needs to be aware of that."  So, if you take what he says at face value, we can't trust the staff NOR the council!  Unbelievable!  I know he likes to hear himself talk, but truth would be a very nice addition to his rhetoric from time to time.

If this council passes this budget it will be a VERY clear statement to all residents, business owners and visitors to our city that they have chosen to prioritize streets and infrastructure and put public safety on the back burner.  I don't know about you folks, but I think they've got their priorities reversed and I fear some of us may suffer because of it.  Is that REALLY what YOU want?  Crime is already on the rise...

Labels: , , , , , ,


Anonymous CMFamily10 said...

Vote them out in November. It's that simple.

6/13/2012 06:32:00 AM  
Anonymous troll said...

tough spot for cities from coast to coast. lower revenues, unfunded pension liabilities (which will continue to grow unless the DOW reaches 70,000 points soon), decaying infrastructure. The job of council is to provide what they can without "kicking the can" down the road for our children to deal with. The 2nd tier pension, or just a simple 401K plan has helped many cities already. Why don't we have it? The cops and firemen say they are ready to do it. The council wants it. What is the problem, let's do it this afternoon! I suspect (or guess, or any other word that describes that I don't know for sure) that there are "strings" attached to the offer from the associations to institute pension change. Those strings are what is stopping this from being a done deal. The question is, what are the strings. Is it other possible benefits, job security, or short term length of agreement? Is it revenue neutral in the end and thus no good, does it save us a couple million now and cost us twice that three years from now? As a member of the public I wish the truth without spin would come out. If council won't do it maybe an association leader can pen a column in the Pilot sayhig they accept a 2nd tier pension, no strings attached. That puts the ball in council's court. Are the associations willing to make such a statement. Geoff infers they are or have. What are the "stings"? Joe, I know you will post about puppet strings but to all you others I am asking a serious question. Not about puppets, twinkies,shreck, trolls,double chins, etc. but about our City's finances.

6/13/2012 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Less than six months ago, I was the victim of identity theft in Costa Mesa. As of today, the case is still pending. The PD is sorely understaffed!

6/13/2012 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

This is Father's Day weekend and that and this blog make me reflect on the antics of the men on this Council. They are setting a horrible example for their children. By their actions it is ok to lie, to cheat (not follow the rules), to bully, be arrogant and sell your soul (and the livelihood of your neighbors), for a job and campaign contributions. I hope they are all budgeting a personal "slush fund". Their kids will need therapy to sort all this mess out as they get older.

There is a great song lyric, "Careful the things you say; children will listen. Careful the things you do; children will see - and learn."

Happy father's day to the men of the council.

6/13/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Das Riggmarshal is focused on getting his puppets elected. When more people die or get injured they will deny or minimize any connection to the budget or other council actions. Pretty streets get votes.

6/13/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous 43 years in this city said...

I'd like to know what the cartel promised Bever for him to act like this in his final weeks.

We will never forget how he sold out Costa Mesa.

6/13/2012 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

"Joe, I know you will post about puppet strings but to all you others I am asking a serious question."


You already acknowledged your strings Fitzrig, so I don't need to point them out again. And your nickname Shrek was not given by me.

Here's your serious answer once again: Your masters invented a budget crisis to seize power.

One dead, many wounded, so Righeimer and friends can advance.

6/13/2012 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Serious Question said...

Does Fitzy have a job other than kissing Riggy's butt??

6/13/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Capt. Mauser said...

A close friend of mine has a son who is in the basic police academy in Fullerton and he said that it's widely known throughout the program that Costa Mesa is not the place you want to go andget a job. He said that most guys would work for Costa Mesa only to get some experience then move on to another department. This is coming from people who aren't even Cops yet, and they know all about the situation happening in our City. Good luck with an active recruitment, and the people we do get, are these the ones we want protecting us?

6/13/2012 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

From what I have been told the Street Maintenance staff will be transferred to other vacant positions in public services. There will be no layoffs. The layoffs come from those who were funded out of Redevelopment. While it is very short-sided to eliminate the street maintenance crew, because now the council has decided residential streets are not important enough to maintain,this is the direction they are going. The council is dead set on cutting services to the bone, so that they can force the privatization of city services. It is not about saving money. If it was they would not of hired a interim city clerk while paying the salary of the current city clerk. They also would not of hired the "do nothing" triplets of Frances, Joyce and Lobdell on the 5th floor. If you are chummy with the city council, your position is saved. If you are not, your days are numbered.

6/13/2012 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous troll said...

well, 9 derogatory comments with some unfounded claims of illegal activies by council. still waiting for an answer about 2 tier pensions and if there are any "strings" attached.
Capt. Mauser has an interesting insight in his post. I have one that is a little older, two years now, so may not be valid anymore. That is, that other cops are discouraged from coming to Costa Mesa because current cops will make them very unwelcome. The current cops WANT unfilled positions to remain that way so council can be blamed. This may still be the case today. Sounds right out of a union playbook. And no more fargetched than some of the things Egan dreams up.

6/13/2012 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Suggestion: said...

Ignore Fitzpatrick here like they do on the CM4RG Facebook page. Arguing with this fool is a circular waste of time.

6/13/2012 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Cop said...

Troll- your last comment is simply not true. No one in our ranks would make a new hire feel unwelcomed. We would love to fill all vacant positions. We would love to have some of the great talent that left for greener pastures back. It's not going to happen.

Your statement is an unfounded lie. No evil union scheme at play. Keep up the monotone union argument though. It has worked so far.

6/13/2012 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous 43 years in this city said...

Engaging this troll or any internet troll is only feeding them. Stop feeding the pigeons.

6/13/2012 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Shrek Tracker said...

Troll fitzpatrick has no life. Answering him only makes his recovery longer.

6/13/2012 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Serious Question said...

Derogatory comments 13
Troll 2

Time for someone to get a job.

6/13/2012 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous troll said...

Ok, don't answer the question about any "strings" attached to the two tier pension system, just keep attacking the person who asked. That is all you have. This is typical cm4rg type of conduct and was expected.

6/13/2012 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous RobG said...

The CMFA currently has an offer on the table (and has since March 8!) for a two tier pension, offering to pay 10.4% of PERS (highest in the county, if not the State), reduced staffing and other concessions. The article states the city is short $1.1 million.
Under Interim Chief Arnold's reorganization plan, the combined offers total a $1.1 million savings per year for five years. (the CMFA is asking for a 3 year extension to the ratified contract).
Now Isn't that interesting that both numbers equal $1.1 million?
You can view the offer at at the bottom of the listed articles.

6/13/2012 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Befitting said...

According to Wikipedia, a troll (aka Jim Fitzpatrick) is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
While the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, media attention in recent years has made such labels subjective, with trolling describing intentionally provocative actions and harassment outside of an online context. For example, mass media has used troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet sites with the aim of causing grief to families."
Very appropriate name you selected for yourself Fitzy. There’s no doubt your words and actions cause grief to families throughout the entire City of Costa Mesa… and beyond!

6/13/2012 07:40:00 PM  
Anonymous troll said...

thanks Rob. I will run this by some council members and see what their response is. If there is no valid objection brought forth by them, I will speak before council on it. It would be great if there are no hidden strings brought forth by council. You have addressed one I thought may be there, the reduced staffing so that is good to scratch off. Right now, the 3 year extension to the ratified contract is where I suspect conflict. Will see. numbers are interesting. went to the store and it came to 17.43 and reached in my pocket, pulled out all my change and it was 43 cents. Interesting.

6/13/2012 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous troll said...

Just saw something else that may be a problem. You say offer will pay 10.4 per cent of Pers. I am not sure of what that works out to but if it is not 100 per cent of the "employee contribution" there will be a problem. "employee contribution" should be just that, 100 per cent from the employee. many lower paid, ranking union people pay 100 per cent of their share and this will be the trend everywhere I believe. we cant have it any other way, especially with 3@50 staying with current employees. If that can be cut off now then room to compromise.

6/13/2012 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous shreck said...

cmfamily10 is correct, vote them out in November. we need new people on the Sanitary Distric Board.

6/13/2012 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Fry Baby said...

Once you're off that Board Fitzy, the Sanitary District will be AWESOME!

6/13/2012 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous RobG said...

Employees cannot legally pay 100% per PERS. We are offering to pay the same as the Executive Staff. Also, I was just corrected that the concessions of CMFA total $1.3mil per year + Chief Arnolds plan is another $2.5 mil on top of that totaling $3.8 +/- per year.

6/13/2012 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Help a Delusional Troll said...

Now he's playing "leader" as if what he says TO the bosses would make a difference? Fitzy = Fredo Corleone

6/13/2012 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks RobG for explaining it all. I fear, however, that this will not be enough for Righeimer and his gang. We shall see.

6/13/2012 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Not supposed to know that said...

Troll tipped their hand. Watch and see. Serious question or negotiation via blog or describing terms of the stand-off in a way that tries to make the councilmen position sound reasonable? I know what I know, and he/she/it shouldn't be saying some of those things here.

the question from troll's first post is good one, if it weren't all for the pupose of insinuating the rest. Serious sounding question preceded by enough councilmanic talking points to give the game away. Subsequent posts subtly build the real agenda, the mask slips at 6/13 5:30pm, the little lies get inserted until all the talking points are covered.

This time the propaganda was smoother than usual, but the person used something only someone privy to closed door meetings would know. It seems all in a days work for this council, but breaking the rules is not cool or productive.

6/14/2012 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Shrek Tracker said...

Like CMPD, CMFD is a class act. Trying to have a good faith discussion with troll fitzy is a waste of time and probably counterproductive. He's not here to solve problems, only propagandize. If he ever did get up and speak on CMFD's behalf, he would probably HARM its cause.

6/14/2012 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous troll said...

same as executive staff sounds good. thanks for the clarification

6/14/2012 07:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Just the facts said...

I am trying to find out how many CM Cops have had to be fired in the last 2 or so years.

Cops are always trying to tell us how selective they are.

I think there is a story on the number of cops who have had to be let go.

I think it can be perceived as positive, that the new Chief is making tough choices.

But I don't think the cop bloggers will offer up those facts.

Anyone have any idea, or where to find that info?

6/14/2012 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Cashew Carl said...

Isn't that 10.4% the same amount that all the 5th floor executives agreed to start paying and got that great write-up and tons of accolades in the Daily Pilot?

6/14/2012 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous troll said...

AHA!!! Not supposed to know that said I "leaked" something from closed session, that I am a council member, blah blah, blah...
TOO FUNNY. I am no insider at all, just read stories and form questions and some conclusions. I have been around awhile in the businessworld and in negotiations with trade unions, that is MY insight. Thus i know the union games and spin and playbook, that't all. THERE ARE ALWAYS STRINGS NOT ADMITTED TO FOLKS, ALWAYS. I ask questions at community forums, in public, of councilmembers. haven't even been to a council meeting in more than 2 years. just am very astute.

6/14/2012 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Shrek Tracker said...

troll wrote:
"I am no insider at all, just read stories and form questions"

I see. Riggy finally told you to STFU. TOOL late!

6/14/2012 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Claims Adjustor said...

"I have been around awhile in the businessworld and in negotiations with trade unions"

"Hey Mr. Big-feather-in-hat, how much did you say I have to pay her for this "union?"

6/14/2012 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Cop said...

The answer is two. What's the story?

6/14/2012 07:50:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home