More in City Hall:
By David Warren–
City Manager Christopher Boyd at the Jan. 28 special City Council meeting presented a doomsday scenario for municipal services, with the most draconian service reductions directed at the Citrus Heights Police Department.
Boyd blamed the 2008 recession, the rise of on-line shopping, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the failure of Measure M to increase sales taxes in Citrus Heights. The actual reason is the City Council’s decision to withdraw almost $20 million from the city’s reserve funds to pay cash for the new City Hall.
During municipal incorporation discussions, it was clear that the city’s budget would incur revenue deficits in the few years before all property tax revenues were paid to the city. At the time the purchase of the new City Hall was being debated, many individuals came forward protesting the use of the municipal fiscal reserve because it would put the city at risk for unexpected economic downturns. Nonetheless, then/current City Council members Jeannie Bruins and Steve Miller voted to drain the municipal reserve to purchase the new City Hall.
The irony of that decision is that the city hall building is likely to remain unused for months to come because many of the municipal staff work remotely, either full-time or for a significant portion of the week. The City Hall is the proverbial white elephant.
Boyd’s presentation made no mention of salary reductions for the city’s most highly compensated employees. Boyd’s total salary and benefits package exceeds $400,000 per annum, more than that $210,000 paid to the Governor of the State of California, and equal to that paid to the President of the United States.
The Police Chief’s salary package exceeds that paid to the California Senate Sergeant at Arms. Other managers are paid six figure salaries. City Council members justify these extraordinary salaries asserting that it costs more to retain the best employees.
Boyd’s City Council report advocates not filling or terminating lower-level municipal staff, and reductions in police staffing levels to solve the budget deficit. Boyd did not suggest reducing salaries of high paid municipal executives, unlike California State employees, who due to state forecasted budget deficits, were compelled to accept a 10% wage reduction.
During this time of economic distress and the COVID-19 pandemic, the city requires a fully staffed CHPD and municipal staff, as well as properly maintaining municipal property instead of reductions in both. It is more important to maintain continuity of the employees who provide day-to-day services than municipal executives.
The city instead of reducing staff, postponing maintenance and not filling vacancies should undertake the following:
- For each employee whose wage package exceeds $150,000 per annum, require a 10% reduction of the wage package with the caveat that when municipal revenues again exceed expenses, the wage package will be reinstated. If the employee is unwilling to accept the reduction, the city should adopt a new premise that employees will be the best that the city can afford instead of hiring the purported best that money can buy;
- Replenish the reserve funds for the City Hall purchase by taking out a 15-year, fully amortized low-interest loan secured by the City Hall property. The money received from the loan will ensure full employee staffing and municipal services until the city’s agreement with Sacramento County ends and tax revenues flow to the city; and
- Adopt a resolution supporting increased property tax assessments on commercial property so that property tax revenues are based upon 2021 property values, not Proposition 13’s 1975 property assessment values, so that commercial property tax revenues received by the city can be used to pay 2021 expenses.
No one wants increased taxes or additional municipal debt, but we all want to assure public safety. Boyd’s report to the City Council makes it clear that current revenues cannot assure all necessary municipal services and repairs.
Contact our City Council members and demand that they act immediately so that all municipal services can be maintained. Should City Council members refuse to act, the community should loudly and assertively demand their resignation. And in the worse-case scenario, should the City Council members refuse to act, we should unite to recall the recalcitrant City Council members.
The immediate rebuttal to the above suggestion of a recall is that it will cost the city a significant sum for the recall costs. However, the failure and refusal of City Council members to fully fund municipal services, i.e., CHPD, general services such as filling pot holes and other municipal repairs, and building inspections and permits, endangers the community more than election costs.
City Council members’ mantra since incorporation has been that the city live within its means. If the city had not depleted its reserve for the purchase of the City Hall, we would not be confronted with this budget crisis.
To those that argue such a loan would be expensive, the answer is simple, if and when the city’s revenue improves, there is nothing to prevent a prepayment of the unpaid loan principal.
Now is the time for the City Council to display the intestinal fortitude necessary to remedy the City Hall purchase mistake by funding the municipal reserve and protect municipal employees and services, as well as ensure future sufficient municipal tax revenue.
David Warren is a legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety, and can be reached at [email protected]
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