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    Two Visions of America by Don Jans

    Venturans for Responsible & Efficient Government | Important Trends Post-COVID-19 🦠

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    ā€œĀ Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.ā€

    ā€”Henry David Thoreau

     


    Weā€™re living through unprecedented times. No one knows how events will develop as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Yet there are specific unmistakable trends to watch. We want you to be aware of the trends and to look out for the critical choices that will shape our future.

    Now is the time to support our elected officials as they negotiate the COVID-19 epidemic. The time will come soon when the quality of their decisions will affect how much pain and sacrifice Ventura residents must bear. As a community, weā€™ve shown that we are resilient and generous. TheĀ Thomas FireĀ is a recent example. The impact of the Thomas Fire could pale in comparison to the coronavirus pandemic fallout.

    Lost Sales Tax Revenue From COVID-19

    The City of Ventura relies on income from two primary sources: property tax and sales tax.
    Property tax revenue is constant and predictable. Yet, the Ventura City Council has little control over property taxes.

    Sales taxes will be severely impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, andĀ Measure OĀ depends on sales tax revenue. Sales tax revenue has already plummeted. The auto dealers, the casino, the Pacific View Mall and restaurants arenā€™t generating the taxes the city expected. They are the city’s most significant contributors to sales taxes. To make matters worse, the transit occupancy tax (TOT, or bed tax) has been non-existent for the past six weeks. With no date set to reopen businesses, the losses will continue to mount.

    How will Ventura make up the difference in sales taxes? Consumers are reeling from the loss of jobs, reduced hours, and volatility in the stock market. State unemployment benefits will help some. Itā€™s notable, though, theĀ Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has limited reserves, which will deplete quickly.

    Furthermore, many businesses closed by the shelter-in-place order will not open. Those with large amounts of debt are most at risk. Donā€™t be surprised by some of the large businesses that fail in addition to the smaller, Mom-and-Pop establishments that will inevitably closeā€”resulting in even more job losses.
    Ā 

    Solutions Will Require Creativity

    With the two primary sources of income for the City of Ventura in serious jeopardy, and the City Council has little control over either. Finding a solution will require ingenuity.

    With no chance to increase income, the only option available is to reduce expenses for the city. Before COVID-19, the city faced a $4.1million annual deficit for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. After the business disruption from the epidemic, the $4.1 million deficit will be a welcome alternative to what is likely to happen.
    Ā 

    City Major Expenses

    The most considerable expense for any city is payrollā€”including benefits and retirement. The salaries, benefits and pensions are all controlled by labor contracts. In fact, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, these costs will likely blow up. The Ventura City Councilā€™s control of this expense is limited to reducing staffing levels. Here are examples that the City Council is considering.Ā See page 6.Ā 
    Ā 

    CalPERS Damaged By The COVID-19 Pandemic

    Ā 
    Before the start of 2020,Ā CalPERS required Ventura to pay an additional $2 million above the $16 million it pays typically. Even though the economy experienced a decade-long economic boom, CalPERS is only 70% funded. The drop in the stock market following the COVID-19 panic hurt CalPERSā€™ investment portfolio even more. By October, the $2 million additional CalPERS requires Ventura to pay may be considerably higher.
    Ā 

    Editorā€™s Comments

    The City Council will be in the troublesome position of making significant, painful decisions to cope with the fallout. Payroll is the only controllable,Ā significantĀ expense that this Council can alter. While a hiring freeze is likely, it will have limited immediate effect.Ā 
    Ā 
    There are other costs the Council can influence.Ā Itā€™s time the City Council scrutinizesĀ allĀ the cost of services to consider less costly options. Those services can be General Fund items like fire and police, or they can be other operational items like water.Ā 
    Ā 
    In fact, water directly impacts every household. The rates water users pay are approved by the City Council, even thoughĀ Ventura WaterĀ operates outside of the General Fund.Ā 
    Ā 
    Any increase to cost of water will be damaging financially to many families already burdened by the economic shutdown.Ā 
    Ā 
    Lost sales tax revenue, steady property taxes, and an out-of-control, bloated retirement plan are out of the Councilā€™s control. We hope they will focus on the things they can control and rein in expenses to avoid more extensive economic pain for the city and its citizens.
    Ā 

    Tell City Council Youā€™re Concerned, Want to be Informed, and Are Watching the Process.

    Below youā€™ll find the photos of our current City Council. Click on any Councilmemberā€™s photo, and youā€™ll open your email program ready to write directly to that Councilmember.Let them know what youā€™re thinking. Not participating in government makes us worse because our city government isnā€™t working for all of us.

    Councilmembers Councilmembers
    Councilmembers Councilmembers
    Councilmembers Councilmembers

    Ā Editors:

    R. AlvianiĀ Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā  T. CookĀ Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā  Bob Berry
    R. McCordĀ Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā  C. Kistner Ā Ā Ā Ā  B. FrankĀ Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā  R. Hinton Ā 


    Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free Ā SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing ā€“Ā DONATE

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