Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

Antioch Council approves desal plant labor agreement, $51 million Capital Improvement Program

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Gives City Manager $20,000 pay raise

By Alexandra Riva

The Antioch City Council met on Tuesday, June 12 to discuss items on their agenda including adoption of the five-year Capital Improvement Program, a Project Stability Agreement in accordance with the Brackish Water Desalination Plant – Labor Study, and amendments to City Manager Ron Bernal’s employment agreement.

These issues were of particular interest to those in attendance and received equal amounts of debate and consideration from members of the public and City Council alike.

City Manager Pay Raise

Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe made a motion to bring the discussion of the City Manager’s employment agreement to the start of the meeting. After having met in a closed session earlier in the day to discuss the matter, the City Council met in an open session in the hopes of coming to a decision that, if Mayor Wright signs the agreement, would increase Bernal’s pay by $20,000.

One public comment was made on this issue, from Marty Fernandez, in opposition to the increase in pay.

“Mayor and City Council, I just want to ask a question,” he said. “Do you know that there are people, working people, in this town that don’t make twenty thousand dollars a year? I just don’t care how much city managers are making in other cities or anything else. If somebody jumps off the bridge, are you going to jump off the bridge too? Thank you.”

Thorpe then made a motion that would move the discussion of the agenda item back to closed session, which was voted on and approved by all five members of the City Council.

$51 Million Capital Improvement Plan

The City Council then discussed the proposed adoption of a $51 million five-year capital improvement program, lasting from 2018 to 2023. The adoption of this program would amend the operating budget slightly from what was previously discussed for improvements to roads, traffic signals and sidewalks, the water system, sewer system, and storm drains, as well as parks, marina and Amtrak Station improvements.

The improvements also include a new restroom at the Boat Launch facility at the end of L Street. The CIP also includes $1.0 million for the renovations to the Council Chambers in addition to the $400,000 in the current fiscal year budget.

Projects, like the Contra Loma basketball courts, would be made their own project instead of being part of the generic park fund. Additionally, an action plan regarding L Street would be created, and the $25,000 that would roll over from this year’s budget would be used to help better handle these situations and projects.

There were no public comments on the matter, and a motion was made by Council Member Lori Ogorchock to adopt the changes to the CIP. The vote was unanimous, and the CIP was approved. 2018-23 Antioch Capital Improvement Program

Desalination Plant Project Stability Agreement

The possible authorization of a Project Stability Agreement (PSA) in accordance with the Brackish Water Desalination Plant – Labor Study was of major interest at the meeting. The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not a PSA would help the project reach completion and help to aide labor efficiency and employment. Desal Plant Labor Stability Agreement

More than ten members of the public came out to voice their opinions on the matter. Many of the comments were positive, calling for the authorization of a PSA for this project and making note of the benefits that would come from this decision.

Bill Whitney, the CEO of Contra Costa Building Trades, came to show his support for the adoption of a PSA.

“If you have a PSA, we are going to need more apprentices, that just the way it works. And we go out and we look to hire people from the community, such as Antioch residents. PSAs, by law, so they have been through the court system, have been declared that they are non-discriminatory. Someone may come up and tell you it’s discriminatory, that’s not true,” said Whitney.

Local hiring and an increase in diversity among hires, including more women in these programs and helping veterans find jobs, were among the positives cited not only by Whitney, but by many in support of the PSA.

Among the dissenting views was Joseph Lubas, a longtime resident of Contra Costa County.

“I flat out oppose the project stabilization agreement…they have consistently shown that they are wastes of tax payer dollars, results in bids being rejected, and, yes, just reject this PSA,” said Lubas.

Despite the comments from those in opposition, which brought up concerns similar to those made by Lubas, the PSA was seen favorably by the members of the City Council.

After public comments ended, Council Member Tony Tiscareno said, “There’s a lot of good things that I see…I’m going to let my councilmen speak, but I am ready to make a motion to pass this thing.”

Further, in regard to the adoption of the PSA, Thorpe remarked that it was not rocket science, it’s the right thing to do.

In a 5-0 vote, the City Council chose to support the adoption of a PSA for the Brackish Water Desalination Plant.

Other Matters

Other agenda items discussed and resolved in the meeting include, the approval of a grant of $20,000 for Celebrate Antioch for community events including the July 4th Celebration and Holiday DeLites. Council Member Monica Wilson abstained from voting on this matter.

The City Council discussed a new voting Delegate and Alternate Delegate for the League of California Cities’ Annual Conference. It resulted in the appointment of Ogorchock as the Delegate, Wilson as the Alternate Delegate, and Thorpe as the second Alternate Delegate, in a unanimous vote.

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council decided on appointments of Ogorchock and Tiscareno to serve on the City Attorney Ad Hoc Recruitment Committee. Thorpe voted no.

The extension of the expiration date of the Quality of Life Ad Hoc Committee, which is comprised of Thorpe and Wilson, to December 31, 2018, was approved in a unanimous vote.

To view the complete meeting agenda, click here. To watch the council meeting on the City’s website, click here.

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Antioch School District 2018-19 budget decreases again, this year by $4.2 million

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Board discusses LCAP, LCFF; support staff contract approved

By Robert Pierce

At the June 13, 2018 Antioch School Board meeting all five trustees discussed the draft Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and preliminary budget for the 2018-2019 school year. They also approved the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the district and California School Employees Association for non-teaching support staff, and several new district policy items that were voted on as a group. Summary of Tentative Agreement CSEA

The meeting began with official congratulations to the recent high school graduates, and a happy birthday message by the rest of the board to trustee Walter Ruehlig.

There was a single comment from the public by Mary Rocha, who is planning on running for the board in November’s election. She urged the board to reconsider their decision and “if nothing else, slow down” the development of two new charter schools, which the board authorized last month. Rocha cited concerns with budget and documentation as reasons to reconsider.

“I ask you to reconsider, because, in the end, we are going to be affecting our own school system and our own employees,” Rocha said.

Back on the main agenda, district reports were given on both the LCAP and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by Dr. Jason Murphy. 2018-2019 LCAP District Report

According to the official district website, “The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a California funding calculation that recognizes that students with additional academic needs – low-income, English language learner, and foster youth students – need additional financial resources to support their education.”

The district LCAP website

The LCFF provides a per-pupil “base grant”, a “supplemental grant” for every student in one of the target areas and a flat “concentration grant” for districts with more than 55% of their students in one of those three groups. The LCAP, in turn, is a “planning tool” in which the district uses to report how they are going to use that funding, as well as the effectiveness of the programs and services the funding was used on.

Specifically, the LCAP, which AUSD has received funding from since the 2013-2014 school year, has local districts tie their budgets to concrete improvement goals. AUSD’s LCAP for this year currently has six LCAP goals, which according to Murphy were designed to mirror both state priorities and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and include goals such as “Provide effective and enriching learning environments,” “Build inclusive school communities” and “Reduce the achievement gap amongst student groups.”

Murphy brought with him several students and parents from district high schools to comment on their involvement with the process of developing an LCAP. All of them spoke highly of their experiences with the program and expressed a desire for greater student and community member involvement, even at the middle school level.

Trustee Debra Vinson asked how the efficacy of a program is tracked, specifically programs dealing with behavioral justice, and mentioned the district’s current struggles with high suspension, expulsion and absenteeism despite heavy investment in programs such as “Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports”. Vinson also asked how it is determined when and if a program needs to be dropped entirely.

Murphy responded that there is an on-going process of in-depth analysis of each program and service associated with LCAP, a big part of which involves getting community feedback and perspectives from students and parents, and using this data to help shape LCAP goals, mentioning specifically that they are actively working on using grant money to bring in more mental health professionals.

Murphy also explained that they have a vetting process for any vendor they choose to do business with, but for vendors who already passed the vetting and have a contract but are underperforming, information and data on the programs and services that vendor provides are available on the district website so that any staff member or community member can see how well they are working and use the data to have “critical conversations.” For Murphy, getting the LCAP data online, publicly available, was a major goal.

“We thought our theory of action would necessitate that we develop a process that includes all stakeholders,” he stated. “Available on the district website… is the list of all of our stakeholder engagement opportunities.”

Murphy said he strove for more engagement with stakeholders “whether they are students, parents, staff members or even community members” so that they can collaborate directly with the district to improve LCAP goals and processes. Another stated reason for online engagement was so that community members could interact with LCAP even if they were unable to physically attend meetings on it.

Vinson also specifically asked about the potential creation of a Restorative Justice program and a school site Climate Team to tackle issues regarding bullying and student emotional trauma that affect student attendance and classroom behavior; Associate Superintendent Christine Ibarra responded that she currently has a team looking into that issue and considering multiple solutions to it including Restorative Justice.

Ultimately Ruehlig reflected that it was a lot of information to digest, and trustee Diane Gibson-Gray encouraged parents and students to reach out with their ideas.

District reports were also given on the 2018-2019 preliminary budget by several staff, chiefly Associate Superintendent Teresa Santamaria.

Santamaria highlighted that the full implementation of LCFF, the elimination of gap funding, rising expenditures and a potential recession are creating “a huge squeeze for local education authorities.” While revenue assumptions per grade level based off of ADA grants rose about $200, drastic shifts in both federal and local revenue sources as well as rising salary and benefit costs for many employees created said squeeze.

Despite all of that, however, the district only lost $4.2 million this school year compared to a loss of $9.9 million last year, and the district will remain in the black this year as well.

“Looking at this number, we can definitely say the budget year 18-19 will be positive,” Santamaria stated. However, she explained that in the long term, due to revenue losses and expenditure increases as well as the opening of new charter schools in the area, “there will be a huge impact on our fund balance.”

The full preliminary budget

Santamaria declared that the full budget will be presented at the June 27 meeting and will include more in-depth discussion of “the major components of the budget” as well as “multi-year budget projections” with true budget balance being a huge goal for the future.

In addition to district reports, there were public hearings for both the LCAP and the preliminary budget, despite the public having already had chance to comment; Board President Gary Hack observed that it was a “silly” situation but, required by law. Predictably, both public hearings ended without any comment.

No votes were taken for either item during the meeting. The final adoption is expected to occur at the board’s meeting on June 27.

Employees Association Contract Approved

“Disclosure and Ratification of the Tentative Agreement Between Antioch Unified School District and California School Employees Association for 2017-2018,” was passed 5-0 with little to no discussion by the board, merely accepting the result of a collective bargaining agreement already settled by the district required by law to be publicly disclosed before final confirmation. The settlement included extra pay and benefits and a definitive workweek of five consecutive days Monday through Friday for most employees. The district also commended both sides of the negotiation. The full settlement, ratified 5-0

To view the complete meeting, visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

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Contra Costa Supervisors examine $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

In era of federal funding uncertainty

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Supervisors are poised to approve on May 8 a $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget realizing that during the upcoming budget year there is the likelihood significant funding cuts out of Washington might especially hit human services programs.

“The current administration in Washington is likely to reduce funding to states and counties,” county administrator David Twa warned supervisors at Tuesday’s board budget hearing.

Even with that caution, supervisors did not blink an eye and proceeded to listen to six budget presentations from department chiefs about what is in store for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.  Supervisors did not comment about the prospects of federal or state cuts next fiscal year at the hearing, but neither did any of the meager number of persons who showed up to speak about the proposed 2018-19 spending plan.

The Employment & Human Services Department is subject to perhaps the most significant funding cuts from Washington, EHSD Director Kathy Gallagher told supervisors.  Since 2017, funding for the department’s CalFresh and CalWorks programs that deliver food and job training for 65,000 residents has had federal funding trimmed from $101.5 million in 2016 to $90.4 million to 2018.  More cuts are expected for the two programs in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year, she said.

Gallagher painted a bleak federal funding fiscal picture showing a watch list of human service programs that could potentially be hit with steep federal funding cuts.  Some of those programs include Medicaid, Community Service Block Grants, Child Welfare Services, and the Older American Act, which includes Meals on Wheels.

Federal funding uncertainty also hovers over County Health Services, but not as severely as what EHSD faces, Contra Costa County Health Director Anna M. Roth told supervisors, in presenting her department’s proposed $1.8 billion budget for 2018-19.  Next year’s budget includes $100 million in general funds.

Roth noted that expansion of the Contra Costa Health Plan with more than 200,000 members provides the county financial support, especially when there is financial uncertainty coming out of Washington.

Addressing only the $241,271,160 in general funds proposed for 2018-19, Contra Costa Undersheriff Michael Casten, who filled in for Sheriff David O. Livingston who was out of town, said a $5.6 million vacancy factor makes it “a very difficult for the Office of the Sheriff-Coroner to operate”.

Casten said the funding deficit means for 2018019 the Sheriff-Coroner will not fill 10 deputy sheriff slots worth $2.6 million, three mental health evaluation team deputies openings worth a combined $781,000, 7 patrol deputies worth $1.82 million and six sergeants worth $1.77 million.  The Sheriff-Coroner’s request for 15 recruit positions valued at $1.21 million was approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

For Diana Becton, the Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointed by the board of supervisors last year who is up for election June 5, budget priorities for 2018-19 include enforcement of Proposition 64 (2016 voter approval for the legalization of the sale of marijuana in California), hiring of additional clerical staff, the implementation of a case management system and pay parity.

For 2018-19, Becton wants to add 14 full-time staff worth $1 million.  Those positions include five mainline prosecution assistant district attorneys, five mainline prosecution clerks, two senior inspectors and one forensic accountant.

District attorney Becton wants to also distribute resources for bail reform, the East County Anti-Violence Coalition, the West County Anti-Violence Coalition, the Safe Streets Task Force and anti-truancy initiatives.

Public Defender Robin Lipetzky plans to hire 8 staff members to her department next fiscal year.  She plans to hire two attorneys, one investigator, pretrial attorneys, and clerical staff.  A new juvenile office in Walnut Creek will open in the next month, she informed supervisors.  Last year the public defender handled 501 juvenile cases.  Her department last year also handled 3,545 felony cases.

For 2018-19, Contra Costa Public Works will be busy filling 15 positions, Brian Balbas, Public Works Director said.  The department will need the additional staff as Balbas needs more staff to oversee a big increase in capital improvement projects, including the construction of a new $110 million county administration building and emergency communication center.

New West County Health Center Expansion Project Approved

On a consent item, supervisors awarded a $12.45 million design-build contract to C. Overaa & Co. for the design and construction of the West County Health Center Expansion Project at 13585 San Pablo Ave., in San Pablo.

When the project is completed, the new two-story, 20,000 square foot building will house the Behavioral Health Department, which will be relocated from a leased building.  The new building will qualify for a LEED Silver rating from the Green Building Council.

Other construction firms competing for the design-build contract were Vila Construction and Boldt Co.

College District – Sheriff-Coroner Contract OK’d

Supervisors also approved the $497,250 contract between the Sheriff-Coroner and Contra Costa Community College District to provide educational course construction at the Law Enforcement Training Center at Los Medanos College for the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

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Antioch’s Somersville Towne Center area designated a Federal Opportunity Zone for special investment

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Somersville Towne Center mall area in Antioch. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

Part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

By Dan Borsuk

In a potential bid to receive federal Treasury Department aid for economically stagnating pockets of the county, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors added the Somersville Towne Center mall area, Rodeo and tracts in the North Richmond area to the Federal Opportunity Zone program on Tuesday. Without hearing comments from the public, the supervisors unanimously voted to add the three census tracts to the county’s recommendation to the new Federal Opportunity Zone program.

Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. The program provides a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds that are dedicated to investing into Opportunity Zones designated by the governors of every U.S. state and territory. (Read more about how the Opportunity Zones program works, as well as its history and community of supporters.)

Prior to the board’s action, the Contra Costa County Conservation and Development Department said the state had identified 11 tracts in the county that qualified for the Federal Opportunity Zone Program.  Those tracts either have poverty rates of more than 20 percent or median incomes below 80 percent of state or metropolitan areas.  Those areas include the cities of Richmond, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Concord, Antioch and the unincorporated areas of Bay Point and North Richmond.

The county had a deadline of Thursday, March 15 to submit its Opportunity Zone recommendation to the state.

However, there is the possibility the Federal Opportunity Zone Program may not kick into effect in either Contra Costa County or in the Golden State, said Amalia Cunningham of the Contra Costa County Conservation and Development Department.

“Private Investment Opportunity Zones would be eligible for lower federal capital gain tax,” Cunningham informed supervisors. “This is the only identified incentive.  There is no dedicated funding for the program nor has the state announced it will participate by lowering state capital gains tax for investment in Opportunity Zones.”

District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood recommended that the area around the Somersville Towne Center in Antioch be added to the county Opportunity Zone Program based on a decline in economic activity in the area.

“We will be working with the city of Antioch on this proposal to include the Somersville area in the county Opportunity Zone proposal to the state,” said Cunningham.

The recommendation to add Rodeo came from District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg and District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond recommended several tracts in North Richmond.

If the federal requirements are not enough to potentially squash the program, bureaucratic oversight might kill the program.  Cunningham told supervisors the county is under a tight deadline to submit an application, along with public comments.

“States have been given an abbreviated timeline from the federal government to submit their tracts.  The state’s draft list was made public on March 2 and local agencies comments are due by March 15,” she said.

Supervisor Mitchoff Faces June 5 Opponent

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord will face clinical psychologist Harmesh Kumar, 59, in a June 5 election for the District 4 board seat.

Kumar, who had unsuccessfully run for the Concord City Council in 2012 and recently withdrew plans to run for governor, said he wants to serve on the board of supervisors because “I want the people to win.”  He told the Contra Costa Herald the existing board of supervisors are “against the poor.”  He said Mitchoff and other supervisors represent the interests of the bureaucrats, not those of the people.

“I’m looking forward to a spirited debate on the issues facing District 4,” Mitchoff briefly told the Herald about her opponent and upcoming reelection.

Mitchoff has served on the board of supervisors since January 2011.

District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who is also up for reelection, but will not face an opponent since no one filed papers to run against the attorney on the filing deadline, Friday, March, 9.

Supervisors endorsed on a 5-0 consent action, state Senator Mike McGuire’s (D-North Bay) Senate Bill 833 that would create a red alert emergency system to issue and coordinate alerts following an evacuation order and requires the red alert system to incorporate a variety of notification resources.

Senator McGuire authored the bill in the aftermath of the massive wildfires that killed 40 persons, destroyed 6,000 houses and charred 170,000 acres in Lake, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Anti-Smoking Ordinance Passes

Supervisors also unanimously approved without public comment an ordinance banning smoking in approximately 10,000 dwelling units in unincorporated Contra Costa County.  The ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2019 when county health officials are expected to have completed an education program informing landlords and tenants about the anti-smoking law.

Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and the Alameda County Emergency Operations Center were selected by the supervisors in a consent action item as alternative temporary county seats for Contra Costa County “in the event of war or enemy caused disaster or the imminence of such disasters.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Supervisors brush off Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition for upcoming hearings

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Told they should focus on job training and housing in 2018 and beyond, during Tuesday retreat in Pleasant Hill

By Daniel Borsuk

The unveiling of a new citizens organization designed to inject more citizen involvement in the county’s budget development process was torpedoed by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

During a board retreat at the Pleasant Hill Community Center, supervisors informed representatives of the two-month-old Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition that since 82 percent of next year’s proposed $3.4 billion 2018-2019 fiscal budget will come from federal and state funding sources, those funds are mandated for either health services at 55 percent and the sheriff-coroner at 27 percent and there is no room for discussion from the public.

The county’s current fiscal year budget is $3.1 billion.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the proposed budget on May 8.  They have scheduled a public hearing on the budget on April 17 with the possibility a second hearing on April 24 if one is needed.

Supervisors told coalition representatives that it would essentially be a waste of time to make a pitch about the budget either at the public hearing or by scheduling meetings with supervisors in their district offices.

“We have a lot of restrictions on our money,” said Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill.  “Go ahead with holding your community meetings about the county budget, but they will be limited.”

“We have very limited money,” District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover said.  “Our health and safety funds are mandated by the federal or state government agencies.”

“I am always open to have the public engaged in public policymaking, but we have to face the fact that our budget is mostly funded through mandated categorical sources, “said Supervisor John Gioia of District 1.

“We understand that the budget is already stacked up with required mandated funding, but there is still some flexibility in the process,” Dan Geiger of the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition and director of Human Services Alliance of Contra Costa told the Contra Costa Herald.  “We are asking the board to give us some say.”

“We will likely do what we have initially planned to do and that includes meet individual supervisors in their district offices to discuss budget issues,” Geiger said.  “We will also attend the April 17 public hearing.”

Geiger said the objective of the organization, which began with nine non-profit organizations in December and is growing with the potential 48 new organizations, is to open up the county’s budget process.

The new coalition aims to practice its “values-based budgeting principles” that promote safety and affordable housing, stable employment with fair wages, sufficient healthy food, essential health care, access to critical social services, quality early care and education.

Geiger said formation of the Contra Costa Budget Justice coalition occurs at a time there is mounting uncertainty about the future of federal funding coming out of Washington for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year and beyond.  Those budget priorities include housing, health care for low income residents, children and youth services, and mental-behavioral health.

Economic Outlook: Housing Shortage and Job Training

The economic focus in Contra Costa County in 2018 and beyond should be on job training and housing county supervisors were told by Christopher Thornberg, Director of the University of California at Riverside Center for Forecasting and Development.

The economist presented his yearly Economic Outlook Focus on the Contra Costa Economy during the board of supervisors’ retreat.

While the nation’s economy experienced “good growth in 2017” at 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, Thornberg said California, and especially Contra Costa County is facing two economic problems, a shortage of trained workers even though since 2010 there has been a phenomenal number of job openings and a severe housing shortage.

“We are running out of trained workers,” he said.  This is due to an increasing number of trained workers retiring.  Thornberg suggested as a partial solution to the worsening employment crisis is raising the Social Security retirement age requirement age by two years from 70 to 72.

“In Contra Costa County you have the jobs.  There are a lot of job openings.  Job training and housing should be your focus,” he said.

Thornberg said it is up to the supervisors to find ways to address the housing crisis with rising housing prices.

“We’re seeing a tighter housing market in Contra Costa County with the median house price at $550,000, “he said.

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Two public events at TreVista Senior Living & Memory Care in Antioch in January

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

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It’s time Antioch started using correct, honest figures for Measure C police staffing and funding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report

By Allen Payton, Publisher

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report was recently received in the mail and I took the time to read it. Unfortunately, what I discovered was it provides false information to the public. Now, I don’t blame city staff. They’re merely reporting and acting on the direction of the city council. But, it’s the direction of the past mayor and city council which chose to play games and manipulate the police staffing numbers and budget to make things look better than they really are. So, it’s time the new mayor, mayor pro tem and council gave new direction to the city staff to use the correct and honest figures for Measure C.

Mayor and Council Promised 22 More Sworn Officers

Here are the facts, again. In the ballot argument for Measure C, signed by then-Mayor Wade Harper and the rest of the city council at that time, which included current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, it stated:

“A Yes on Measure C will allow us to immediately hire 22 new police officers, decreasing the time it takes to respond to 911 calls. It will also provide funds to reduce the number of gang-related homicides, assaults and robberies.

Our police force has dwindled from 126 officers four years ago to only 89 today. 911 response times have increased and violent crime is up 30%. We feel unsafe in our homes and are in constant fear of becoming victims of crime.”

We Had 89 Sworn Officers

The ballot argument concluded with and was signed by the following:

“Antioch needs funds now to lower crime and to cleanup dilapidated properties. Your voting Yes on Measure C will give us the financial boost we need to turn Antioch around. Thank you.

Sergeant Tom Fuhrmann, President, Antioch Police Officers’ Association; Brittney Gougeon, Founder, Take Back Antioch; Joyann Motts, President, Antioch Unified School Board; Hans Ho, Past Chair, Antioch Crime Prevention Commission/ Neighborhood Watch Coordinator; Antioch City Council; Wade Harper, Mayor of Antioch/ Retired Police Lieutenant”

They Owed Us 111 Total Sworn Officers

My math tells me that would bring the total to 111 sworn officers (89 + 22). The ballot was written and submitted in either July or August 2013 in time for the sample ballots to be printed and mailed to the voters. So we had 89 sworn officers on the force being paid for out of the budget before the funds from Measure C began to be collected.

Please read the entire ballot statement and arguments, here – http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/.

They Chose to Use 82 Sworn Officers as the Base, Instead

However, by the time Measure C passed in November, the Antioch Police Department had lost seven more officers reducing the force to just 82 sworn officers. So, that was the figure the mayor and council at that time voted and gave direction to city staff to use as the base figure. Adding 22 more officers only gives we the taxpaying and voting public a total of 104 sworn officers – which is the figure the council and staff have accounted for in next year’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

That was wrong and dishonest of them to do, because the budget already included enough for 89 sworn officers and Measure C is supposed to pay for 22 “new officers” according to the ballot argument.

Council Member Lori Ogorchock was elected in November 2014 and Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe were elected last November long after Measure C passed. But they all inherited the commitments and promises of the past council to give us the 22 additional officers from Measure C, on top of the 89 we had at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and “immediately.”

Past Police Chief Allan Cantando and current Chief Tammany Brooks have said they’ve been doing everything they can to continue to add officers to the force and have hired 49 sworn police officers since the passage of Measure C, according to Brooks’ portion of the report. However, due to past council actions including the very rich 3% at age 50 retirement benefit – which was fortunately changed in 2012 for new hires – and due to other attrition, the department has lost 35 sworn officers during that time. That brings the total number of sworn officers to just 96. That was news to me as I was under the impression we had reached and remained at the 100-officer level.

They Owe Use 15 More Sworn Police Officers

That’s just seven more officers than the city had in 2013 when Measure C was placed on the ballot. Here we are over four years later, certainly not the “immediately” as the then-mayor and council promised us. The current council owes us another 15 sworn officers paid for by Measure C funds based on simple math of 111 – 96 = 15.

Brook’s comment that “our net gain is currently 14,” is only correct when comparing it to what has happened “Since the passage of Measure C in 2013,” as the first sentence of his comments stated. It’s not correct when comparing that figure to how many officers we were actually promised if we passed Measure C.

Only seven of those 14 sworn officers are supposed to be paid for from Measure C funds and the fact is the city has only gained a net seven additional officers, not 14 from the revenue generated by the extra half-cent sales tax in Antioch.

It all goes back to the number of officers the budget was paying for at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and the promise made which was 89.

The worst part is, even before they have given us the 22 additional officers, the previous mayor and council, of which Ogorchock was a part, voted unanimously to give pay raises to the police and the rest of the city staff totaling $9.2 million in contracts that run one year beyond the sunset of Measure C. (They did so on Election Night, by the way after it was too late for the voters to know what was in the pay and benefits packages before they voted). The additional half-cent sales tax only lasts until 2020. The contracts run through 2021. (See related articles, here and here)

Now They’re Asking for a One-Cent Sales Tax

Yet, now city staff is already asking for we the people to consider voting, not for a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, but an increase to a one-cent sales tax when Measure C expires. Among other questions about city services and issues facing our community, a recent phone survey, approved  by City Manager Ron Bernal and paid for out of his discretionary funds, asked residents if we would support that. The audacity to even us ask to consider supporting a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, much less doubling it, before fulfilling the promise and commitment made to we the people under Measure C and having spent $9.2 million on pay raises, seriously had me stunned.

They’ve Only Budgeted for 104 Sworn Officers

The last part of Chief Brooks final sentence in the report is correct: “As of June 30, 2017, $2,947,361 remains unspent pending allocation to enhancing Police and Code Enforcement services, as promised to voters.” At least he recognizes that a promise was made to the voters. But, I challenge the amount remaining unspent, since that figure should be much higher if the proper figure of 111 sworn officers was accounted for, not 103 currently and 104 in next year’s budget.

We just need the city council to remember what that promise actually was – 22 additional officers on top of the 89 sworn we already had – and ensure we are provided the 111 sworn officers Antioch needs to fight and bring down crime, which is supposed to be their highest priority. It’s time to put our money where their mouths are.

One Promise Broken, Another Can Still Be Kept

Obviously, they haven’t been able to keep the part of the promise of hiring the 22 additional officers “immediately”. But, the current city council can fulfill the promise of 111 total sworn officers as we are due, by giving new direction to staff to use the correct, honest figure of 89 sworn officers as the base not 82.

What’s that old saying – figures lie and liars figure? The figure of 82 sworn officers the city has been using since 2013 is just plain dishonest. I expect Mayor Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe and Council Member Ogorchock who were not part of the council that gave that misdirection to staff, to correct this and give new direction using 89 as the base figure. I would also hope that Council Members Wilson and Tiscareno would see the error of their ways and join them in correcting it.

We get enough of this statistical and fiscal game playing with our government and our money from Washington, DC and Sacramento, already. It should never be allowed at the local level. If the council and staff ever hope to see Measure C renewed, or much less doubled – which I seriously doubt will be supported (and we’ll see once the results of the recent survey are made public) – the council needs to correct this. Also, if Sgt. Tom Fuhrmann, Joy Motts and Hans Ho want to maintain their integrity, they will make sure the council does so, because they added their names and reputations to the ballot argument in which the promises were made to help ensure Measure C’s passage. So they all made that same promise.

Reopen Employee Contracts to Ensure Funding for 111 Officers

We the people need the council to not only start using the correct base of 89 sworn officer, we need one of the three current council members who voted for the pay raises last year to join Wright and Thorpe in reopening and renegotiating the city employee contracts. That is the only way to ensure there is enough money in the budget to pay for the 111 sworn officers we were promised.

Unfortunately, that still won’t get us to the 1.2 officers per 1,000 population level of 132 sworn police officers that we’ve been needing for the past 20 years. But, it will have to do, for now.

And the time to face the facts, take responsible action, be honest with we the people and address and fix these matters is now.

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Payton Perspective: Facing does not mean filing for or in bankruptcy, but Antioch Council needs to take action to avoid it

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Chart from city staff report presented to the Antioch City Council on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

I was informed this week that there is some confusion in the community about the City of Antioch’s finances due to the headline for an article published on the Antioch Herald website, last week.

The headline read “City Council learns Antioch again facing bankruptcy” which is accurate, based on the staff report at the Council meeting on Tuesday, April 11,2017. The chart included with the article shows that in the 2021-22 fiscal year, without the city’s half-cent sales tax Measure C being re-approved by the voters, the city’s General Fund balance will cross the line from zero dollars. Even if Measure C is renewed that financial event occurs two years later.

I have since updated the headline to reflect that bankruptcy will occur “within five years.” But, the original headline was accurate and we stand by it. Folks, let me be frank. First, you need to understand the meaning of words and their use in a sentence. Second, you have to read the article to understand what’s going on, not just the headline.

When a government agency or a business is facing bankruptcy, it doesn’t mean it has filed for or is in bankruptcy. It means it has to make some changes to avoid it.

That’s exactly what needs to be done at City Hall and they have five years to do it.

Two things have caused this. As the article states, “Antioch’s $52.7 million General Fund budget is projected to begin deficit spending by $2.6 million in July of next year due largely to increased police staffing, pay and benefit hikes for all city employees and increased payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System.” (PERS)

The recent approvals, by the previous council and the current council majority, of the city employ contracts with increases to pay and benefits will cost the city over $9 million over the next five years. Those contracts extend one year beyond the sunset of Measure C in 2021. That council majority does not include current Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe who both opposed the new contracts, but couldn’t do anything to stop them once they were on the council.

PERS is now requiring cities to pay more towards the unfunded liabilities of the pensions of past employees. That’s because for years, PERS has been projecting an overly aggressive and unrealistic return on their investments, and now reality has hit them in the face. The result is each city and government agency in California has to contribute more money to PERS to make up for the difference in what they projected and what is needed to pay for the pensions of current and future retirees.

At the end of Tuesday night’s meeting on April 25, Mayor Sean Wright said “Antioch is in fine financial shape. For those who ask if we are filing for bankruptcy the answer is no.  We have $25 million in reserves with no debt.”

His second sentence is correct, as I’ve pointed out, above. Wright’s first sentence is also correct – today. But, he’s aware and we all are, now with the staff report, that just because the city has $25 million in reserves, today doesn’t mean it will be in fine financial shape, just a few years from now. Wright is also aware that action must be taken to keep the city in “fine financial shape.”

As the city staff report on April 11, and above and below charts show, that even if we vote to renew Measure C, the city’s half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2013, the city’s General Fund balance will be zero dollars in less than seven years.

City of Antioch General Fund Projection Chart from city staff report to council on 4/11/17.

If the Council doesn’t do three things over the next few years, Antioch will run out of those reserves and be upside down financially, which means bankruptcy.

First, the council needs to reopen and renegotiate the employee contracts. The City of Richmond just approved new contracts for their police and firefighters without a pay raise. (That city is facing the same financial challenges as Antioch, also because of PERS and even with a new tax increase. See related article, here.) Antioch should have done the same, at least until they had hired the 22 additional officers we were promised “immediately” in 2013 if we passed Measure C. Plus, all the other city employees enjoyed 13% in pay raises just a few years ago when the council ended Furlough Fridays. The council majority must have forgotten about that.

Message to the council majority: we didn’t give you two tax increases, including Measure O, to give pay raises to city staff. That was nowhere in the ballot language of either measure.

Second, the city needs to fulfill its promise and hire the 11 additional sworn police officers. So far, they’ve given us a net 11 additional officers out of the 22. They need to start budgeting for 111, not 102 like they’ve been doing. There were 89 sworn officers on the force when that promise was made.

That will result in crime being reduced which will help Antioch be able to attract business, as well as an increase in property values, which gives the city more tax revenue, without raising taxes.

Third, the city needs to more aggressively pursue new businesses to locate in Antioch. Now that the eBART extension and Hillcrest station will be opening next year, that area should be prime for attracting new businesses.

That will result in more sales and property tax revenue to the city, and possibly without having to either renew Measure C or increase other taxes – and to be frugal and responsible, the council needs to plan for and base their budgets on the expectation that it won’t be renewed.

The time to develop a plan to implement these three actions is now. I trust and hope that with the new leadership on the council and inside City Hall with a new city manager, it can and will be done.

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