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    Responses to City Manager's Proposed 2002 Spending Plan note: On Friday August 10, the City Council began one of its most important annual tasks: deciding how much taxpayer money City Hall may spend on virtually everything from police and libraries to perks and consultants. Officially called the City Resource Allocation Plan [comment: produces an interesting acronym], the Manager (under the City Charter) first sent his proposed budget to the Mayor (by Aug. 1) who publicly released it (on Aug. 10) with her recommended changes to the Council.

    Councilmembers have the power to question everything and change anything; a majority can effectively vote to allocate sums as they please provided they end up with a budget balanced on paper (as the Manager did). has previously posted the City Manager's budget message verbatim. We have posted the Mayor's detailed recommendations verbatim, below. We are also posting below a number of comments received on the City Manager's proposed budget and expect the list to grow; additional comments will be posted as received.

    We have also provided a hypertext index, below, so readers can go straight to items of interest of scroll through the entire article.

    Index to responses (in order received)

    Norm Ryan
    Prop J utility tax cut leader, fiscal analyst, Mayoral candidate

    [Mr. Ryan limited his response to the City Manager's budget message, noting it set the tone and Councilmembers would likely rely on it. Mr. Ryan said he plans to review the entire budget and respond to it in the coming days. Re the Manager's budget message, he said:]

    What a useless piece of [pause] information,

    Every time we're talking about an increase in any sort of revenue source, there's not the prior base year given, so you're not even seeing an increase; you're seeing what it's increased up to...

    Again, the city is doing the old shuck and jive with no real numbers. They're showing the [budget as] Adopted 2001 [approved by the Council Sept. 2000], the estimated Actual 2001 [how the budget is expected to close in Sept. 2001], and then the Proposed 2002 [for Council consideration and adoption in Sept. 2001].

    And the..real numbers that should be in there [are] in a column at the far left which is the 2000 numbers. But instead of showing you what the Actual 2000 numbers are, they show you what the Adopted 2000 numbers are, in other words, what they voted on, not what actually happened.

    This is how they managed to hide the fact that the carry overs are just all these hidden monies coming to fore, because, so what if you're carrying over $18 million this year. You'll probably carry over $18 million next year as well. So, that being said, that's how they hide some of their reserves.

    Pretty useless. Even when it came down to trying to dissect what actually happened with the utility tax, they were unwilling to say anything other than it's a net loss to the city, When they had an opportunity to break it out and show you what the numbers were, if you look at [the City Manager's budget message], they say here's property taxes and then underneath is "other taxes," which I guess includes sales tax, utility tax, everything else.

    It's amazing that when they can be specific, they won't be, other than to say it's a net loss to the city.

    It's a pretty useless document, pretty much reminds me of the "masked magician"...on Fox [TV]. for showing all these tricks which really irritated the other magicians whose job it is to fool the people. Well, this is one of those tricks.

    When I get the actual budget, I can point out...some comparisons that are worthwhile. All I can say is that I anticipated that. just from the [budget message] document, it shows there's almost $11 or $12 million dollars in new spending -- new spending!

    So all this talk last year of what they would have to cut, as I said, they wouldn't have to cut anything, that the rate of growth in the revenues would be more than sufficient to cover any decrease in the utility tax.

    And there might be a minuscule amount of additional money after inflation (after the cost of living adjustments) but that's a reason for no additional new spending on "gee whiz" stuff, but no excuse to cut anything...[Received: Aug. 11]

    Steve James
    President, LB Police Officers Association

    I am skeptically relieved about the budget proposal.

    My association and I were splattered with the concerns that there were very rough times ahead as a result of proposition J. In fact, we recently agreed to a one year extension to our current contract (4 yrs) so that we could allow the City to see what the actual effects of measure J would be.

    Since the City Manager has suggested an acceleration to the tax cut passed by the voters, I feel safe in saying that the effects are clearly not as devastating as originally predicted. To an uneducated person such as myself, it could even appear that Mr. Ryan was very accurate with the information he provided during the measure J campaign.

    I now feel confident that there will be no need to cut any services as a result of the Utility Tax Cut. In fact, it appears that next year, when all of the City's employee groups come to the table to bargain, that each one should be able to secure contracts that are economically fair while providing some short term stability.

    The City has done well despite some major obstacles, and we are all pleased to see that the financial future of our City is bright. As one of the largest employee organizations in the City, we intend to do everything within our power to help continue along the prosperous path that we all are currently on. [Received: Aug. 11]

    Councilwoman Jackie Kell, 5th district

    ...I thought I would mention something in the budget coming maybe from a little different direction, the fact that we have reserves that are untouched. We have about $33 million in reserves.

    These reserves being there allow us to borrow money at a cheaper rate, lowers our debt services, reduces the cost of building...

    These reserves give us a very good credit rating. The underlying credit rating is a triple A [AAA], which supports the other rating of double A [AA]...

    Also, this budget enables us to get back on the multi-year plan to get libraries up to national standards, which means increasing the number of books and hours that the library is open.

    And...fortunately we're ahead of funding the Family Learning Centers. We now have 12 of them which allows us to have computer classrooms and parents' participation in helping their child getting their homework done and their assignments in.

    ...The reserves and the credit rating and the lower debt service is very important to a city and this budget allows us to have the best rating and our reserves untouched. [Received: August 13]

    Councilwoman Laura Richardson-Batts, 6th district

    I am first of all relieved that we have an opportunity to continue the services that we've offered for the residents of Long Beach, based upon the positive economic outlook that we have right now. That is very exciting and I'm happy to be a part of that.

    In terms of the City Manager and the Mayor's recommendation of returning the gas pipeline fees to the residents, I would much rather be in support of establishing a reserve which we are doing. We're not taking as much as we normally take from the Gas Dept. I guess in years past we've taken anywhere from $12-$15 million like we do from the Water Dept. and from the Port, and I guess this year we're taking $6 [million] instead of the $14 [million].

    So that's positive but I'd rather see us establish a reserve so if something like this happens again, we would be in a better position of paying the difference and not having the costs shoot up like they did.

    Because what I found in our solutions was, even though they were solutions and they helped, sometimes a million dollars doesn't go very far over, let's say, a half a million accounts, or a hundred thousand or how ever many it is.

    So I am not at this point in support of utilizing those dollars in reduction of the UUT [utility users tax]. I think we took very positive steps to reduce it before we had to this last time, and so I'm hoping that that demonstrates the good faith to the public, that we're trying to do the best that we can, but I'm not in support of reducing it further at this time.

    What I am in support of is with those dollars, I believe we need to address the things that the community has asked us to do. And the community has asked us to revitalize the neighborhoods, to fix the insfrastructure, to do many of the things that we haven't had the luxury of doing due to cutbacks in years past. So I would like to see us focus on those areas.

    So for example, the City Manager's recommendation to continue the $3 million in sidewalks, I think maybe $1.6 million of slurry seal, and there's another area in the budget too as well...I'm in support of us addressing the needs of what people have asked us to do. [Received: August 17]

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