Antioch city manager sees stable and secure financial position in spite of COVID-19

Through fiscal discipline, city preparing for growth and opportunity

By Rolando Bonilla, Public Information Officer, City of Antioch

As cities throughout the Bay Area begin to have conversations regarding financial reductions as a result of COVID-19, the City of Antioch is preparing for growth.

Key to the City’s formula for financial stability has been the commitment to providing quality services to Antioch’s residents through efficiencies rather than the conventional approach of hiring a large workforce to meet city needs. In Antioch, a full-service city of over 115,000 residents, city officials have been able to keep the workforce at fewer than 400 employees.

“After the trauma of the 2007-08 recession, city leadership recognized that we had to operate differently to strengthen the City’s financial health for the long-term,” said Ron Bernal, City Manager, City of Antioch. “By implementing financial procedures and discipline, the City will continue to make strategic expenditures that will enhance the quality of life for our community while also protecting the City’s financial position.”

Through a combination of timely passed sales tax measures, steadily increasing sales and property tax, approval of cannabis-related businesses, and a disciplined approach to adding staff and relying on the Stabilization Fund, Antioch looks to be in a secure position as the Bay Area enters into the COVID-19 recession.

“The budget stabilization fund purpose, as established in the adopted budget is: ‘Committed for unexpected General Fund budget variances, unanticipated projects and/or expenses, unfunded liabilities and to maintain a minimum 20% unassigned fund balance within the General Fund,’” Bernal shared.

That’s different than the funds being used to pay Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB).

“OPEB falls within the category of unfunded liabilities and is what Council directed to use annually to pay towards the full actuarially determined contribution moving forward,” he shared.

However, in one of the two budget options presented to the council in April, in Option Two City Finance Director Dawn Merchant said, “the city completely runs out of money in Fiscal Year ’25.” (See related article)

“Version 2 of the budget was a full recession scenario and projected the city would exhaust the reserve in 2025,” Bernal explained. “This makes projections that we would continue spending as we are currently budgeted, which obviously would not be the case if we found ourselves in a recession.”

By recognizing an opportunity, and working with a balanced budget, city officials are preparing for growth that will propel the City of Antioch as a major player in the Bay Area economy.

From the planned construction of a $70 million Brackish Water Desalination Plant – made possible through a $10 million Proposition 1 grant and a $27 million settlement from the California Department of Water Resources – to the redevelopment of property sites near the massive $1.4 billion Highway 4 widening and BART extension, the City of Antioch is well-positioned to become a model for fiscal discipline and growth.

“I’m cautiously optimistic and excited about the future,” added Bernal. “Opportunity really does live here in Antioch.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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