More painful Oxnard budget hearings- prioritize and close deficit

By George Miller

Difficult hearings on the coming year’s Oxnard City budget continued Thursday (May 28) afternoon/evening, with Library, Recreation, Human Resources,  Finance and Environmental (waste disposal) Departments presenting. Significantly, the Utilities and Streets presentations were pulled from the program at the last minute. City Manager Greg Nyhoff said they just weren’t ready, but would be presented at the June 9 meeting. He still intends to call for a budget vote on schedule and have an approved budget in June.

It will necesary to pull at least $10-11 million out of current spending levels and/or enhance revenues, to balance the General Fund budget. Enterprise funds such as water, wastewater, environmental, Performing Arts Center and the Golf Course all have either major deferred maintenance/very large capital requirements, or large deficits, in the case of the latter two. Utilities are funded by ratepayers, so those are a differnet story.  Please refer to key meeting documents, linked at the end of this article.

Name Date Agenda Video
Special City Council Meeting May 28, 2015 – 04:00 PM View Agenda

 

OCCC5-28-15 001Library Currently $4.5MM,  31 FTE (full time equivalent employees) (42.5 budgeted)

Library Director Barbara Murray presented her successful programs and noted that a major new Library Management System implementation is well underway. The library is getting deeper into technology, including the new system, more electronic materials, elctronic credit/debit payments, 1MB fast Internet WiFi and more. She pointed out how important the library is to the youth- especially disadvantaged youth-  and seniors of the community. She said a 10% cut can be sustained with major belt-tightening and some loss of service, but 15% or more would entail significant service level cuts. It looked like she had pretty good plans to do what needs to be done. Council and public supporters vowed to keep whatever we can afford. Significant volunteer time and monetary dinations are now received via Friends of the Library and other sources, such as private donations and grants. More needed, please.

Staffing is already way down over the last few years, from 41 to 31.

 

OCCC5-28-15 006Recreation  Currently $5.5MM General fund and $3.7 MM other. 18 FTE, 10 vacant.

Terrell Harrison was already working on streamlining, cost cutting and efficiency 18 months ago, he told me before the meeting. He has detailed plans in place and told us what he had already had done. He has his 5-10 and 15% cut plans all ready, but begged the Council to hold it to 10%. Downsizing and moving into much smaller city-owned quarters is a major part of the plan, combined with labor cutbacks. Most people understand the important role that recreation dept. programs and City Corp plays in the development of Oxnard youth.  The programs are very popular, but some may have to go.

His budget is fairly complicated, because a big chunk comes from the General Fund, but millions more from Measure O funding and other sources, even including interdepartmental transfers.

 

OCCC5-28-15 010Human Resources  Currently $894K, 12 FTE, 4 vacant, requested $1.9MM  

Budget cuts? I’m  not retreating. In the tradition of General George Patton, new Oxnard Human Resources Director Tabin Cosio is only advancing. The HR department is way down on staff. Many deficiencies were identified in the audits and even prior to that.  He is requesting to nearly double staff from its existing 8 to 15 and the budget by 110% to over $1.9 million, which he says is needed to build up the department to meet its many challenges of recruiting, training, benefits management, compensation, litigation support and legal compliance.  HR is currently receiving massive support from consulting firm Renne Sloan and others.

 

 

OCCC5-28-15 016Finance  Currently $3.6MM, 25.5 people

Interim Finance Director Dave Millican is clearly feeling the strain of many months away from home and a very difficult assignment of rebuilding the department, amid a major financial crisis, staff turover, terrible audit revelations and new City Management. He requested that current department budget levels be sustained while he is performing a major reorganization, cleaning up practices and procedures and supporting operating departments. He is receiving substantial support from Bob Deis of consulting firm Management Partners. Unfortunately, Mr. Millican does not wish to stay with us permanently, but his work is greatly appreciated.

He also wants to do a long range Information technology plan, but warns that the department is currently in no position to implement a major new system.

 

OCCC5-28-15 017Environmental

Todd Housley made a name for hiself with the very successful takeover of  the Material Receycling Facility, which included turnover to the city, recruitment training, succesful operation, $2 million annual cost savings , all the while improving the diversion rate  from landfills.

Because revenue substantially exceeds expenses and will fund needed capital improvements and because ratepayers support it, it is not a budget problem. Housely vowed to extract $1,1 million more. The new proposed budget calls for $42.9MM is revenue and $39.7 in expenses. This is a half million increase in revenue, while expenses drop $.6MM

 

NyhoffCCMtgAfter being on the job a year this coming week, our well regarded City Manager Greg Nyhoff now understands the priorities, situation, resources and shortcomings fairly well. In the absence of strong direction from the council, he will have to take the ball and run with it, making the hard, not-fun decisions to slash spending while attempting to preserve public safety, infrastructure and as many beneficial programs as can be afforded. Then, he’ll have to convince the council to approve it, while the public and various pressure groups are pushing their priorities.  Truly an unenviable task, but he says he’s been there before, when he was Modesto City Manager. He presented this as a healthy process, which will actually result in some good things occurring. He said he really didn’t know fully what he was getting into, but he’s still game.

Keep in mind that the really big money in the General Fund is in Public Safety (Police and Fire budgets are 65% of the General Fund). But this is also the area that is top priority, by almost universal agreement. Also keep in mind that pension contributions and the shortfall from the “Carman Override” tax money are the largest contributors to the deficit.

 

OCCC5-28-15 005

Department Heads all had staff ready to back them up if questions arose. Key Library management people stood ready (left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key meeting documents:

Download:

Document: Staff Report (pdf 2478KB)

Document: City Manager’s Opening (pdf  322KB)
Document: Library Budget (pdf  825KB)
Document: Recreation Budget (pdf  965KB)
Document: Human Resources Budget (pdf  852KB)
Document: Finance Budget (pdf  1,157KB)
Document: Environmental Resources Budget (pdf  1,448KB)
Document: City Manager’s Closing (pdf  306KB)
 
From previous meeting 5-26-15:
Download:
 

Oxnard to work its way out of budget meltdown

Oxnard to work its way out of budget meltdownBy George Miller Also breaking: Ex-City Mgr. Sotelo lost wrongful termination/damages suit today Oxnard held a lively  public hearing on its budget tonight. The city must extract $10-11 million from current spending levels of over $115 million in the General Fund and/or increase revenue to close huge gaps discovered in recent months after extensive audits […]

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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