Budget Workshop, June 19, 2012

The annual Budget Workshop is scheduled for Tuesday at 4:00 pm ahead of the regular Tustin City Council meeting. We are still pouring over the proposed budget and a couple of things have already jumped out at us.

Remember how we told you the rumored shortfall in revenue was anywhere from 2 to 6 million dollars? According to the summary of the proposed budget, the loss due to the demise of corporate welfare…..er, redevelopment, is just under 6 million.

The proposed budget also relies heavily on city reserves which, earlier this year, Mayor Nielsen told me they would try to reinforce. Now, it seems while they reinforce, they will also be using it to pay the bills. There is a tradeoff in that the city is attempting to keep service levels up for city residents. The city is also depending on higher projected sales tax revenues which may or may not appear. However, they do admit this is a volatile revenue that could go up or down.

It also looks like Christine Shingleton, in her new role as Assistant Executive Director, is fully funded for the coming year. As we’ve said before, they need to rid themselves of the extra help if they want to balance the budget.

The city council meeting will convene at 7 pm with just a few noteworthy items. On the Consent Calendar is the resolution for Candidate Statement Fees. This item also discusses  Jerry’s Folly, the measure that would let voters decide if councilmembers will continue to receive compensation for their service. We will have a lot to say about this particularly egregious issue in the coming months leading up to the election in November. By the way, for those of you wondering, the time for candidates to file begins July 16th. We will be checking regularly for new filers and will keep you updated a they come in.

Also on the consent calendar is Item 11, Master MOU between the City of Tustin and the County of Orange for Public Safety Realignment and Post-release Community Supervision. Of course, you can thank Governor Brown for this mess as they release prisoners with almost no oversight. In some counties, such as LA, the duties will be divided between the Sheriff and the Probation Department. Unfortunately, they are overrun with DJJ parolees from several years ago (thanks, Arnie) and will have a difficult time dealing with this new influx. Here in Orange County, we have already seen a more than 150 percent increase in the number of parolees released and prisoners returned under realignment.

Under Regular Business, the two major items also come from Hizzoner. Item 13, City Council Attendance Policy, is a direct attack on Councilmember Deborah Gavello who has required absences due to medical reasons. The proposed policy, which is sure to be adopted by the Gang of Three, has no direct effect on a councilmember. They could receive a reprimand (oooohhh, I’m scared…..). Better that than having to hear Hizzoner squawking from his end of the dais.

Item 14, Teleconferencing of City Council Meetings will probably not fare so well, although it would resolve many of the absence issues of the past as well as allow councilmembers who are traveling to continue to participate.  The issue is in complying with the requirements to teleconference.

We apologize for not getting this out earlier. Our usual day for writing the agenda posts is Sunday. But, as it was Fathers Day, my family requested I man the BBQ and sate their appetites. In a couple of weeks we will be on the road for vacation. We have scheduled campgrounds that have WiFi so we will be writing form the road. Let’s just hope the city website doesn’t crash.

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4 thoughts on “Budget Workshop, June 19, 2012

  1. For a more complete understanding of the city financial situation, it is helpful to look at the proposed budget in light of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Year Ended June 30, 2011. Some very enlightening ten-year tables are included in the back of the report. For example, page 126 shows the growth of “government oriented” long term debt over the past ten years. One can use these ten year comparisons to see how the city has fared during the tenure of various council members. It is all on the City’s own web site at http://www.tustinca.org/departments/finance/index.html#annualcitybudgets

    I understand that the City’s financial statements win awards compared to those of other cities. So citizens should take advantage of that fact to get a more complete look at key trends over time.

    • Good information to have. Looking over this document shows that we have been, overall, fiscally conservative. But, let’s not kid ourselves. This has more to do with an excellent finance department, who knows how to crunch the numbers and less with the City Council. And, with the City Council, there are areas that stand out in the current year. One is the enormous amount of money the city has spent in the lawsuits with the TUSD. This has been a waste of resources and capital on, what is essentially, a power play by Jerry Amante. Amante squandered money by firing David Biggs over the TUSD issue. He then rehired his buddy Huston to double-dip. Not leaving well enough alone, another notable double-dipper is Christine Shingleton who now has the vague title of “Assistant Executive Director”. To what, or whom?

      And let’s not forget the time and cost of harrassing one of Old Town’s prominent citizens when Jerry and his talking head, Elizabeth, went after the Fairbanks over an issue that, in the end, netted them nothing more than what they would have had in the original agreement. But, they did have the fun of hassling citizens, something they both seem to enjoy.

      I won’t mention the iPads. Ooops, I already did…

      In truth, the big ticket items of the budget are handled by the city staff who deserve the credit. They develop the budget, not the City Council. They make sure the punctuation is correct. Except for pet projects each councimember may have on their own agenda, they don’t really have much to do with it.

      Sales tax and property tax growth and decline are the big ticket items. The City Council can influence those indirectly, by policy. It was a good policy decision to forgo permit and business fees this past 6 months. It was good policy to change the method of recouping parking maintenance costs in Old Town. Those are items the City Council should be commended for. But, to say they are all fiscal conservatives, is a laugh.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Jeff, the documents on the city website do not appear to demonstrate a “fiscally conservative” council either. Their own data shows that total city debt for government functions has increased by at least FIVE TIMES since Mr. Amante was elected, and by about 2.7 times since Mayor Nielsen was elected. But I thought readers would be more likely to believe it if they went to the document and looked for themselves. (Page 126) Lots of other interesting info in there too!

  2. OK, this is my sheepish grin 8,} The current proposed budget paints a bright, rosy picture about the city as well. And, while there is a certain comfort zone, this year is going to be volatile. Is all of this on the city council? Yes and no. They are the ones we ultimately look to. But, as I said, it is the city staff who actually make sure all of this works. Let’s hope they got it right and we can keep Jerry from buying the city council Toyota Priuses because they will save the city money in mileage.

    Thanks for setting me straight.

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