Antioch Council approves balanced budget using Measure C funds
By John Crowder
The Antioch City Council approved a balanced operating budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year on a 4-1 vote at their regularly scheduled meeting on June 10th. Council member Gary Agopian cast the lone dissenting vote.
The small, positive balance projected for the end of the budget cycle in 2015 ($2,914) was, in the end, only possible because of projections that Measure C funds totaling a little over $1.2 million will not have been spent. Since they are technically part of the General Fund, they provide the positive outcome. Without the Measure C money, the budget would have shown deficit spending of just under $1.2 million.
Since March, the Council has been conducting study sessions on various aspects of the budget, wrestling with ways to bring expenditures under control and discussing potential revenue sources (minutes of the meetings can be found online, at www.ci.antioch.ca.us/CityGov/citycouncilmeetings.htm). The difficult choices that had to be made in order to approve the budget were evident in both the budget document that was produced and the ongoing discussions. In order to keep expenditures down, city staff members have been subject to furlough days, elected officials have reduced their compensation, earthquake insurance for both city hall and the police station was not purchased, and the city’s contribution to library maintenance has ceased.
Prior to the budget discussion, one of the first items taken up by the Council was a resolution “encouraging City of Antioch elected officials (Mayor, City Council, City Treasurer, and City Clerk) to voluntarily agree to an irrevocable 10% reduction in their salaries and a $100 monthly decrease in their automobile allowance for fiscal year 2014-2015 due to the financial challenges facing the city.” The resolution passed on a 5-0 vote.
Another resolution, also adopted by a unanimous vote of the council, called for approval of the Benefit Document between the City and the Confidential Employees Bargaining Unit. The tentative agreement, which covers the period from October, 2013 through September, 2015, allows for no salary increase, and continues the 36 hour work week and 10% salary reduction currently in place. Employees subject to this agreement will continue working four 9-hour days per week, Monday through Thursday, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., “with specific hours designed by the employee’s supervisor.” That means what have been labeld as “furlough Fridays” will continue.
Regardless of the positive financial outcome projected for the coming fiscal year, city staff, led by City Manager Steve Duran, continue to sound the alarm with respect to deficit spending. In her presentation of the budget to the Council, Antioch’s Finance Manager, Dawn Merchant, noted that, even with Measure C funds, deficit spending in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 is estimated to be about $810,000 and $3.4 million the following year.
Some attending the Council meeting, however, appeared to be reaching their limit with respect to reduced working hours. Michael Davis, a Business Agent for Public Employees Union Local #1, spoke to the Council during the budget hearing.
“There are some signs in the audience today,” he said, referencing individuals seated in the council chambers holding signs advocating a 40-hour work week.
“Our contract negotiations are coming up,” he continued. “As men and women of the public works department who are present have in their hands, 40 hours, economic equality, I guess these are just previews of what’s to come. This furlough has been going on for approximately five years, I believe, with a 10% reduction, there has been a slew of issues regarding it.”
Although expressing a desire to work with the City to resolve any issues, he concluded, “We believe that the public works department needs to get back to 40 hours.”
Immediately following the statement by Davis, Mayor Wade Harper closed the public hearing and brought the matter before Council for discussion. Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha, then almost immediately made a motion to adopt the budget resolution, Council Member Tony Tiscareno seconded it, and with no further discussion, the council passed the resolution on the aforementioned 4-1 vote.
The next meeting of the council is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, at 7:00 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.