Oxnard: Budget still not approved- try again June 24, Street repair plan advanced

BudgetPiggyBankBy George Miller

Budget

The debate goes on over shortcomings of the $358 million proposed budget, which was not approved as planned  (agenda item K-2) last Tuesday.  Finance Director James Cameron  presented the latest iteration, not much different from other recent ones. Two council  members were very uncomfortable with the proposed budget, as it stands. Only four members of the council, plus the two Housing Commissioners, were present Tuesday night, June 17 (Councilman Bryan MacDonald was not able to attend). So, they unanimously voted to punt until next week. when a  third attempt will be made on Tuesday, June 24. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

Budget Document: Staff Report (pdf 2.81MB)

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting June 17, 2014 04h 36m Agenda Minutes Video

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The public weighed in on the budget, as they have been doing for months. Jim Lavery, Larry Stein and others commented.

– Lacks detail, supporting schedules

– Lacks transparency/public accessibility to details, simulation capability

– Appears to plan for ever-increasing debt.

– Enormous public works deferred maintenance not fully addressed

– Budget fails to correlate to major specific projects, milestones with linked costs

– There have been insufficient accruals/sinking funds for deferred maintenance/capital projects over the years

– “Black holes” of golf course and Performing Arts and Convention Center still unaddressed (however a consultant is studying golf course options for July-end completion and the City is recruiting a PACC Director. Theb poistion has been vacant for two years).

– Good that a plan is beginning to build general fund reserves, but now only 11MM vs $18MM target.

– Larry Stein said headcounts are disputed, also suggests that some positions unneeded.  Not confident that property tax forecasts are valid. Says city has no concept of what’s in the budget. Extent of deferred maintenance is troubling.

– Jim Lavery: “Terrible budget,” prolongs the policies of the past. Says 60 vacant posts are the only reason last budget was balanced ($5-6MM). $2MM in Police Dept. vacancies alone. So many intractable problems in the budget. How can you (City Council) vote on it if you don’t understand it?

City Council also weighed in and did not seriously dispute the public comments, even saying city needs to do some of it.

– Councilwoman Padilla asked- what happens if the budget is not approved in time? We were told by City Attorney Fisher that according to a city ordinance, the proposed budget becomes the actual budget when the old one expires (June 30), whether or not it is approved, unless it is modified. Padilla is very concerned about golf course and Performing Arts Center deficits, wants to assist the homeless, must prioritize city staffing, budget does not adequately reflect priority-based planning, NOT comfortable with budget as it stands.

– Councilman Perello: No changes in financial policies, although these sometimes need to be made to comply with laws and satisfy auditors. Concerned about “surprises” on public works needs, especially wastewater. He couldn’t adequately answer public’s questions, criticisms, concerns with the budget and therefore can’t support this budget. He said he can’t listen the public speaking about it as they have then accept the current proposed budget. Whistleblowers came to Greg Nyhoff with some “grave problems.” What can we do between now and next week? He wants the council to put forward some specific items.

Mayor Flynn: Need complete revaluation of how staff prepares the budget and how City Council handles it. The Council is not making true financial decisions on the budget. There was a “strategic Summit” a year ago, when top priorities were identified, although some were very broad. Will need to start a year in advance of budget deadline. He also asked City Mgr. Nyhoff how he planned to address the budget. His response:

– A six month process, reviewed with Council along the way. By August he wants go through the budget line item by line item. Will look at previous year’s track record and actual spending. Analyze organization charts, every employee/role, rank for essential services priority. Nyhoff will present his findings in September: findings, savings, positions, reserves and recommend a mid-year adjustment/amendment (which Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez has previously advocated).

– Start priority-based budgeting (PBB)  “conversation” around September/October.

– A possible retreat in July on how to centralize savings, look at the entire city operation as a team rather than by department, no “hidden” funds, parochialism, focus on wishes of community.

– Some things can be addressed quickly, but initial master plan will take a year.

– People are the greatest expense in a service business (like Oxnard City govt.). Vacancies not all filled- must prioritize.

Other comments by City Mgr. Greg Nyhoff: city has good policies, not always followed, will work on that.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez: budget is a “game plan,” not “set in concrete,” change as needed. Wants to move ahead with this budget now.

Council voted to defer budget vote until next week, when more issues are resolved and full council is present.

 

Street resurfacing proposal (Agenda K-3)

One of the big sticking points for the budget was the lack of an acceptable plan for street resurfacing. There is a large amount of deferred street maintenance- over $100 million estimated. At the June 3 meeting, two council members requested that staff make a proposal at the June 17 meeting, which City Manager Greg Nyhoff took on with Public Works and Finance Depts. They produced this report.

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Current plan

There is a total of $9 million in funded projects currently, per the 6/17 staff presentation, which also stated that $105.1 total repairs were needed, consisting of $30.7MM for residential streets, $28MM in arterial roads and $46.4MM for alleys, with an additional $4MM annually for preventive maintenance. Staff members said that rainy years greatly increase road preventive maintenance costs, but Oxnard has been lucky in that regard because of sparse precipitation.

Several street plans were proposed, including: 1)- a 5 year $40MM program, to be financed with grants, Measure O (sales tax) and Enterprise Fund allocations;  2)- 10 year $80MM program, same funding basis; 3)- 5 year  $50MM program funded by debt, “Pay-Go”, grants and Enterprise Fund allocations (favored); 4)- a 5 year $50MM, same as #3, with full funding of residential streets, none for alleys.

Option 3 was favored, but Council agreed to endeavor to increase the preventive maintenance portion.

Other:

seariseCity to apply for $150,000 grant to Coastal Commission and Ocean Protection Council, study sea level rise (SLR) analyisis and update of the Oxnard Local Coastal Program (LCP).  The agenda and council neglected to mention that this would also necessitate matching funding from Oxnard, which they had voted for a few months ago, but were reminded of that detail at the meeting. Passed unanimously. (Agenda S-4)

There was lively debate about the necessity of that at the previous meeting when this was discussed.

 

 

 

A closed session took place with the  Oxnard Mid-Managers’ Association. No results were reported.

“Information consent agenda”– Many items are approved en masse at meetings with little or no debate, as they were at this meeting. Make sure you look through that section of the agenda to see if anything is of interest. Meeting agenda

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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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