Antioch Council owes us either 104, 111 or 124 sworn officers, Cost Allocation Plan causes confusion, frustration over use of funds, City staff say 100% is going to what it’s meant for, citizens disagree
By Allen Payton
Since the effort began to pass a half-cent sales tax measure in 2013, Antioch has collected over $11 million of Measure C funds and has a net two additional sworn police officers, to show for it. Sure, we also have some additional Community Service Officers (CSO’s) and a few more Code Enforcement Officers, but the main focus of the measure was to fund additional police.
Chief Allan Cantando reported, at the Council meeting on May 10th, that staffing was back down to 91 sworn officers, after having reached a pinnacle of 94 just a few weeks prior.
At that council meeting and in a subsequent email discussion I’ve had with City Manager Steve Duran and City Finance Director Dawn Merchant, they argue that 100% of Measure C funds are being spent on police and code enforcement.
However, under the city’s Cost Allocation Plan, adopted in 2005, a portion of each department’s budget is transferred out to other departments, such as administration to cover the costs associated with serving that department. The police department is treated the same. So, as the amount of money being received by the PD increases, so does the amount transferred out.
City staff argues that the half-cent sales tax is a general tax and the money goes into the city’s General Fund and can be used for any purpose. They’re correct.
Yet, my argument is that the official ballot language and the ballot arguments in favor of Measure C are what voters read and are upon what they based their decision to support it.
Following is the official ballot statement for Measure C:
To fund all essential city services including increased police staffing to reduce crime and gang activities and improve 911 emergency response time; restored code enforcement to clean up blighted properties; and local economic development and job creation, shall the City of Antioch adopt a one-half cent transactions and use (sales) tax, expiring in seven years, with mandatory annual audits and independent citizens’ oversight and for local Antioch use only?
So, while the money from Measure C goes into the City’s General Fund and can be spent on whatever the council decides, it needs to be spent on that which is in the ballot language of the measure.
Furthermore, in the ballot “Arguments For Measure C,” signed by Mayor Wade Harper, the entire Antioch City Council at that time, and three others, they 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.
The budget crisis has forced the near-closing of Antioch’s Code Enforcement Department. We need to resume inspections on foreclosed and abandoned properties to force absent property owners to clean up blight and evict tenants dealing drugs.
A Yes on Measure C will give us immediate funds to begin cleaning up Antioch’s blighted properties.
(For the complete arguments for and against, and the City Attorney’s impartial analysis, see http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/).
But, that was written and signed in either July or August, 2013 before filing closed. By the time the measure passed in November the number of sworn officers had decreased to just 82. That is the base figure the council conveniently agreed to use instead of 89. So, instead of 111 sworn officers based on the funds from the measure, they only have to get us 104 to fulfill their commitment. They’re still currently 13 shy of the lower figure.
Police staffing and Measure C funds use
In an email exchange, last week, Duran provided me with the following statements regarding the amount of money collected and spent from Measure C and its uses:
“We had 82 officers on October 1, 2013. I wasn’t here for the Measure C election process; but 100% of the money is 100% of the money and 100% of the money has gone and continues to go to the Police Department and Code Enforcement. Nobody can do better than that.”
“The City has collected $11,146,933 since the inception of the Measure. These funds have allowed the Police Department to fund 20 additional sworn officers since November 2013, boost Community Service Officer positions by 4, hire a Police Communications Supervisor and an Administrative Analyst. I guess they could have funded just 22 more sworn instead, but the Council allowed the Chief to determine that the APD would be more effective with the additional CSOs, the Communication Supervisor and the Analyst – lower cost employees freeing sworn officers for field work.
Measure C has also enabled the City to reinstate an active Code Enforcement division. Funds have been used to hire one additional Code Enforcement Officer, a blight abatement crew consisting of two laborers, a Development Services/Engineering Technician and to fund a full time Code Enforcement Manager.
Regarding the City of Antioch Cost Allocation Plan, which was implemented in 2005. The APD would be getting the same cost allocation whether or not Measure C ever happened. You can’t run the APD without these internal services unless APD hired these services separately, which would cost APD much more.
Funding 102 sworn officers and getting to that number are totally separate issues. Measure C funded the additional sworn officers, CSOs and other APD staff.
All we can do is continue to put 100% of the Measure C money into APD and Code Enforcement, and recruit and hire officers. We have hired 36 since Measure C passed. We cannot keep people from retiring or leaving for other reasons.
The figure is since we started receiving Measure C funds, which I believe was April 2014.”
I’m glad we have the additional CSO’s and two other police staff members. But, the city only has a net nine additional sworn officers, using the 82 for the city’s officer baseline figure, not 20 as Duran stated. Plus, it’s the 22 sworn police officers who can be out on the street that we were promised and Antioch needs.
So where did the money go for the 11 phantom police officers?
Cost Allocation Plan questions and confusion
The use of money being transferred out of the PD is not clear. In the email exchange, I asked both Duran and Merchant, other than the additional $60,000 recently approved by the council for the part-time Assistant City Manager position, what was the money spent on that was transferred out of the PD and into the Administration budget.
In response Merchant wrote, “‘City Wide Admin’ in PD is $2,785,630 for FY16. FY14 Actual ‘City Wide Admin’ in PD was $1,811,674.”
That’s an increase of $974,000 per year transferring out of the police department budget to other ‘City Wide Admin’ through other departments.
She also wrote “As we have stated at the Council meeting, because the Measure C is budgeted to kick in for expenditures over the base $28.4M, one cannot definitively say a specific item/purchase/etc is solely a Measure C expenditure – meaning this pen was purchased with Measure C but this other pen was not. There is not a separate Measure C fund that expenditures are allocated to for PD. Measure C revenue is deposited into the PD General Fund revenue budget and is used to fund/offset a portion of ALL police department expenditures. That is why in my staff report to Council we said that one could also assume that the $2.4M in reported FY 15 Measure C PD expenditures (because this was the amount of FY15 PD expenditures that exceed the base) could be all salary since the salary costs are so high.”
But, my question to them and the City Council is, just because the Cost Allocation Plan allows for a certain percentage from the PD to go to Administration, are they required to redistribute that amount? The answer is clearly “no.” The CAP is an ordinance that with three votes of council members, they can approve exceptions.
Just because there is a Cost Allocation Plan in place based on percentages, that doesn’t mean those percentages can’t change or the portion from Measure C can be kept separate. The council can vote to not allocate any of the Measure C funds to anything but what was listed in the ballot language.
Besides, how much more money does Third Floor in City Hall need when there has been no additional staff hired to oversee the additional police and code enforcement staff, other than the part-time Assistant City Manager position.
What’s even more confusing is that Duran stated at the last council meeting – and the council has been approving it – the city has been budgeting for 102 sworn officers in each of the year’s budgets, going back to 2013. But, we haven’t had that many sworn officers in years.
So, really, if the baseline budget included that many officers and Measure C is supposed to fund the hiring of 22 additional, then the Council owes us 124 sworn officers from the proceeds of the tax measure.
Sure, a large amount of the Measure C funds has not been spent and is being rolled over into the next fiscal year. But, that’s not why we voted to tax ourselves more. We want more police and improved public safety, now not in future years.
Net Funds Versus Gross
The main disagreement is rooted in the fact that the public is looking at the net amount being spent on police, while city staff is looking at the gross amount, before funds are transferred out of the PD budget to other departments.
Merchant stated clearly during the May 10th council meeting that the percentages have been increasing over the past several years.
“Citywide costs to the police department decreased 8%, then 13%” she stated referring to years prior to the passage of Measure C. “Fiscal Year ‘13 it went up 7%. Fiscal Year ’14 it went up 11%. Fiscal Year ’15 it went up 15%. Fiscal Year ’16 it did increase 24%. But that’s for a full year of furloughs,” referring to the elimination of the 10% pay cut for the city’s non-police staff.
That’s what has former Measure C Citizens’ Oversight Committee member Sal Sbranti and other residents upset and frustrated, including me.
When we were told we would get 22 police officers, plus Code Enforcement, economic development, etc, we didn’t expect the money to go to Administration or anything else.
What’s this about the furloughs? The money from Measure C was not intended to back-fill the 10% pay cut the rest of city staff were forced to take, which resulted in City Hall being closed on Fridays, thus the name Furlough Fridays. That was supposed to come out of Measure O funds, the city business license tax on residential rental properties.
The bottom line is Mayor Harper and the Antioch City Council Members who signed the arguments in favor of the ballot measure in 2013, which include current members Mary Rocha and Monica Wilson, owe us 22 more officers, not two and not nine. Until they get to at least 104 sworn officers – and frankly I believe it should be 111 since that’s based on the figure of 89 officers they gave us – they aren’t doing what they promised we, the people who passed Measure C and are helping pay for it through the increased half-cent sales tax in Antioch.
Until they accomplish that, the city council and staff can expect more complaints and frustration from Antioch residents.