Antioch City Treasurer takes council to task on spending including $12.3 million on homeless motel program

Antioch City Treasurer Lauren Posada speaks to the city council during public comments at the end of their meeting on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Video screenshot.

“the City cannot continue to support each department to meet the demands while continuing to add expenses that depletes revenues” – Lauren Posada

By Allen D. Payton

During public comments at the end of the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 26, City Treasurer Lauren Posada spoke out against the council’s spending.

Earlier in the meeting the council discussed spending $12.3 million over five years for the motel on East 18th Street to serve as transitional housing for the homeless, and the associated “wrap-around” support services.

During council discussion on the item District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said, “I heard from Focus Strategies $12.3 million is conservative. When you look at the budget and transferring in from the state budget stabilization, 2025-26 there is no more money in the budget stabilization fund. So, our reserves will be depleted.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe responded, “every budget assumption we get puts us in the red. We’ve been going bankrupt since the day we got here and 10 years later, we’re not bankrupt. Because these numbers don’t make all the assumptions that, as an example, generally our sales tax does better than we anticipate, so we get more money.”

“We don’t always factor in cannabis because we’re constantly getting new applications and we’re approving them, so that doesn’t take certain things into account,” he continued. “So, to look at this number as a fixed number is inaccurate. Because we never look at numbers like that because they’re assumptions, they’re not reality. They’re just assumptions so that we can plan for the future.”

A majority of council members supported the project, including Thorpe, and Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker (District 1) and Monica Wilson (District 4). But Torres-Walker was not ready to move forward that night as she wanted additional information from staff and to consider other, additional locations in the city. So, combined with the opposition from Ogorchock and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica, a decision on spending $12.3 million on the motel program was postponed. (See related article) (The item is on the agenda for the council’s next meeting on Tuesday, May 10.)

Posada’s Comments (See video at 4:09:51 mark)

Asked if she had planned to share her thoughts before Thorpe made his comments that evening Posada said, “I did have a draft ready. But as the meeting went on, I did edit it. I was listening and I’m glad I waited.”

Reading from prepared remarks, Posada said, “Currently, at the City of Antioch we have under our umbrella – Administration offices, Animal Services, Community Development, Economic Development, Finance, Information Systems, Police, Public Works, and Recreation with various departments underneath. I would like to point out that Animal Services, Water Park, Youth Services, Unhoused Services and the Marina are unique entities to us as a city that we operate. All these departments require resources in order to operate effectively. We have one budget that is adopted bi-annually that we should utilize as a guideline to determine our scope or work.

I understand that year after year since 2012 has been an improvement coming off the previous housing crisis, but it would be a disservice if we continued to go off the notion that our revenues will always exceed our expenditures. There are many factors that are contributed to the budget and closing out each fiscal year – as examples we are taking into consideration the salary savings from our police department this year and the housing market continues to rise that will contribute to our projected revenues for this fiscal year. Each year is unique, but I am asking Council to be mindful of the times that we are in and listen to the warnings when they come.

Throughout this agenda packet there are comments made that I would like to bring up that concerned me regarding the fiscal impact with new budget expenditures:

‘…ongoing operations for the remainder of the regulatory period will need to be identified.’

‘This expenditure is currently unbudgeted and is proposed to be funded through the General Fund.’

‘…the need for a budget amendment would be evaluated in conjunction with the budget process and subject to City Council’s direction to staff.’

‘…budget for the Public Safety and Community Resources Department is not under consideration at this meeting. The City Council will have the opportunity to consider the budget for new positions, office space, supplies, and equipment in its upcoming consideration of the fiscal year budget.’

I am not taking the stance that I am for or against any item, but my ask is this: If we are going to pivot what we have underneath our umbrella as a City then I request that we are willing to have the difficult conversations that may come as a result of that pivot and determine funding sources upfront — the City cannot continue to support each department to meet the demands while continuing to add expenses that depletes revenues — I understand budget will be coming up midyear but it is so important to determine what is our priority and clearly outline that to our residents throughout upcoming agenda packets to alleviate frustration or misinformation if possible and most importantly for residents to be confident in decisions being made that will ultimately impact the future wellbeing of our City.

Thank you.”

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Asked later about her comments Posada said, “I was trying to bring understanding in a professional way. When you look at the agenda packets there should always be a clear funding source.”

“How can we have these conversations so that they can make an educated decision?” she asked. “How does this $12.3 million affect us over the years? But that’s just one decision. We have to look at the big picture.”

“I’m striving to keep fiscal responsibility at the forefront of Council – big decisions are being made that will impact our city,” Posada added.

Posada was elected city treasurer in 2020 for a four-year term. To see the City’s financial reports, visit www.antiochca.gov/administration-department/city-treasurer/ and to contact the city treasurer call (925) 779-7005 or email her at citytreasurer@antiochca.gov.

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