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Mayor-Applauded/Council-Cast 2015 Civic Center Approval Vote Now Costs Taxpayers Sum Exceeding What Public Initially Told, Difference Could Restore At Least Ten Sworn Police Officers Or Possibly More For Taxpayers...And It's Fairly Close To What Staff Told Council Their Voted Action Would Do


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(August 8, 2019, 3:05 p.m., add'l text added Aug. 9, 1:15 a.m.) -- As of July 29, 2019, LB Mayor Robert Garcia, incumbent Councilmembers and city staff are now occupying their new Civic Center. As a result (as of the "official" occupancy date which may have occurred a few days or weeks earlier), by LBREPORT.com's unofficial calculation, the Dec. 15, 2015 City Council approval vote for the new Civic Center, cast without dissent by all current Councilmembers (except Pearce not yet in office) will now cost LB taxpayers an annual sum roughly equivalent to restoring at least ten General Fund citywide deployable sworn police officers, if not more, for LB taxpayers.

And the sum does appear to be fairly close to what staff told Councilmembers that their approval vote would cost taxpayers when the Councilmembers cast their fateful vote ten days before Christmas 2015.

City management has previously informed LBREPORT.com that for rough budget estimate purposes, it's reasonable to project that restoring 10 sworn officers creates a budget cost of roughly $2 million (officers "fully turned out" with all necessary equipment.)

At one point in its Dec. 15, 2015 memo, managament told the Council that in FY20, the Civic Center project is estimated to cost $3.93 million in additional FY20 General Fund spending. [Source: Management's Dec. 15, 2015 agendizing memo, p. 36.] (LBREPORT.com has been unable to find this sum otemized in the management/Mayor's proposed FY20 budget documents.) If the nearly-$4 million FY20 estimated cost turns out to be accurate, it could have have restored nearly 20 police officers for taxpayers. (LBPD's former field anti-gang unit consisted of 20 officers + 2 sergeants.) That said, LBREPORT.com has chosen to be a conservative in indicating the Council's 2015 action is costing LB taxpayers roughly ten officers "if not more" in FY20. [end Aug. 9 update]

On December 15, 2015, then-Council incumbents Lena Gonzalez [now state Senator], Suja Lowenthal [now Hermosa Beach City Mgr.], Suzie Price, Daryl Supernaw, Stacy Mungo, Dee Andrews, Roberto Uranga, Rex Richardson voted to authorize the Civic Center transaction and did so despite an increase of roughly 15.8% (by about $2 million) beyond the sum city staff initially told the public the Civic Center project would cost. Instead of the roughly $12.6 million in 2013 dollars that the public was originally told, city staff said in a December 15, 2015 agendizing memo that it would cost $14.71 mullion in 2013 dollars.

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While City Council and staff's goal was to achieve an annual cost of $12.6 million in 2013 dollars, the Project, with all its enhancements, escalations and reallocations, is anticipated to cost $14.48 million in an annual Service Fee in 2013 dollars. This increase is not unreasonable considering the many changes to scope, reallocation of costs, and escalation costs, and will be manageable through future budget processes.

...While the goal was to construct these facilities and provide for a Iifecycle operations and maintenance contract all within the current (2013) annual costs of $12.6 million to occupy and maintain the existing facilities, staff is pleased to present a Project that provides for the required facilities and life-cycle maintenance contract at a relatively small increase now totaling $14.48 million in 2013 dollars. Including the recommended contingency, the annual Service Fee would be $14.71 million in 2013 dollars. Considering the escalation costs resulting from the extended outreach period, the re-allocation of Operations and Maintenance costs between the City and the Port, the cost of community requested design changes and costs of staff recommended service-related enhancements including a specialized permit center, the Project delivers on City Council's objectives at a reasonable cost.

No Councilmember's objected to this. None voted against it or sought alternatives. They accepted city staff's memo explanation below.

LBREPORT.com's calculations follow:

  • How much is $12.6 million (in 2013 dollars) when calculated in 2019 dollars? $13.85 mil. ("According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today's prices in 2019 are 9.95% higher than average prices throughout 2013. The dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 1.59% per year during this period, meaning the real value of a dollar decreased. In other words, $12,600,000 in 2013 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $13,854,066.63 in 2019, a difference of $1,254,066.63 over 6 years.) [Source: http://www.in2013dollars.com/2013-dollars-in-2018?amount=21.72]

  • How much is $14.71 million (2013 dollars) the Council approved sum when calculated in 2019 dollars? $16.17 million. [Source: http://www.in2013dollars.com/2013-dollars-in-2018?amount=21.72]

  • How much is $14.71 mil (2013 dollars) in 2020 dollars? $16.568 mil (applying the 2018 inflation rate of 2.44%). [Source: http://www.in2013dollars.com/2013-dollars-in-2018?amount=21.72]

  • How much did City staff tell the Council on Dec. 15, 2015 that the service fee would be FY20? $17.28 mil. [Source: City staff memo, Table 10, column 2, Dec. 15, 2015, p. 35.]

So how much will the actual budgeted General Fund FY2020 service fee be? We assume it's close to the predicted figure but LBREPORT.com was unable to locate it explicitly itemized in city management's proposed FY20 budget currently online. LBREPORT.com has invited city management and a city spokesperson to cite the amount for us; their response is pending.

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Last year, LBREPORT.com was informed by senior city management that for rough budget estimation purposes, it's reasonable to assume that adding 10 new sworn officers ("fully turned out" with necessary equipment and the like) costs about $2 million. We have no reason to doubt this figure now, to which we add the additional caveat that the LB police officers collective bargaining unit (LBPOA) is entering negotiations with the City on a new contract on terms will ultimately be decided by a City Council majority.

Based on the foregoing, and unless/until city management cites figures demonstrating otherwise, LBREPORT.com estimates that the City Council's Dec. 15, 2015 vote will now consume a General Fund sum in FY2020 sum equivalent to restoring at least 10 sworn police officers, if not more, for taxpayers.

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As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, LBPOA's president recently testified in support of extending the Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase that voters approved in June 2016 and now brings City Hall roughly $60 million more annually...with which the Mayor has recommended, and the Council has voted to restore to date, 22 of 208 previously erased citywide deployable police officers. The the 186 officers not restored to date (208 - 22 = 186) include LBPD's former 22-sworn officer field anti-gang unit.

To view LB's current per capita police level budgeted by the Mayor/Council to Long Beach taxpayers compared to L.A. and Signal Hill, click here.

In July 2019, the Council voted without dissent to declare a "fiscal emergency" that allowed themselves to put a measure on a specially called March 2020 citywide election ballot that would permanently impose the Measure A sales tax that the Mayor/Council told voters in 2016 would be temporary.


LBREPORT.com anticipates that some may argue that the annual "service fee" compares favorably to previous ongoing Civic Center costs, but we find that argument unpersuasive. Among other things, city staff's Dec. 15, 2015 memo acknowledged that it hasn't been costing LB taxpayers anything more for eight years to simply maintain the old City Hall and Library from 2005 to 2013.

In FY 13, the annual cost of maintaining old City Hall and the Library was the same as it was in 2005. Funding levels for operation and maintenance had not changed in eight years. The lack of an increase in cost is because the maintenance level of the old City Hall and Library is minimal and well below what it is required to maintain the building in reasonable condition. Because no other base cost projection is available, and because the City Hall and Library buildings are seismically at risk, this fiscal impact analysis assumes that the City would not attempt to maintain the buildings in good or even fair condition, but rather would just maintain them in habitable condition. While this substantially understates what would be a "normal" budget, it does represent the current status.

Additional details (added 1:15 a.m. Aug. 9): City management acknowledged in its Dec. 15, 2015 memo that the service fee cost would reach $17.28 million in FY20 with annual ongoing costs (some of which were already being spent for the "old Civic Center") would be $3.70 million in FY20) but said "The effect of these costs on the actual budget in any year is generally less than these sums" based on the following reasoning: "This is because the operating budget in any year is only impacted by incremental costs, i.e., new costs. Once a budget impact is addressed in one year, it does not have to be funded with new budget additions in any future year." [Source: City management Dec. 15, 2015 agendizing memo, p. 36.]

Management's reasoning may suffice for some inside City Hall who prepare budgets that spend taxpayers' money, but taxpayers -- the consumers in the equation -- are clearly impacted by each year's annual cost increases and higher fees and taxes (or service reductions) that result.

In addition, at no point in the process did city management or LB Mayors Bob Foster or Robert Garcia advocate, or any City Council voted actions invite, solicit or receive bids for a less costly seismic retrofit of LB's less than 40 year old City Hall and Main Library by firms that actually do such work. Instead, city management (which has no experience in seismic retrofits) offered an "in-house" estimate that LB elected officials accepted without serious question or challenge.

In addition, a seismic retrofit of LB's two barely 40 year old Civic Center buildings could have been bond financed, with voted public approval (that the Civic Center transaction avoided) for fixed (not annual escalating) payments. The Dec. 15, 2015 vote by seven of LB's eight current incumbents, applauded by LB's Mayor, now commits LB taxpayers from Council districts citywide to pay 40 years of annual escalating sums (in part at a CPI inflation rate the City doesn't control) for a project benefiting downtown (including commercial real estate interests) that has left LB taxpayers with a 30% smaller Main Library and gave up -- permanently -- a portion of publicly owned Civic Center property for private development.

The sums above don't include additional spending for items including $750,000 in "furniture enhancements" over the next three years (General Fund) and a $1 million City Hall "media wall" (using LB's "Special Advertising and Promotions" fund, sums mainly from hotel room taxes.)


Additional text from management's Dec. 15, 2015 memo re FY20 budget impact, added Aug. 9, 1:15 a.m..
Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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