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City Mgm't Tells Council And Taxpayers: LB's Current City Hall Service Levels Aren't Sustainable; Proposes Adjusting Some Proportional Reductions; Raises Option Of Ballot Measure Tax Increase To Fund Replenishment Police Academy; Several Councilmembers Indicate Interest in Tax, No Councilmembers Advocate Funding Replenishment Academy Now Or In FY13 (If Voters Don't Approve Tax)

City management doesn't provide documenting memo or report, offers slideshow presentation

(March 7, 2012, 3:55 a.m.) -- At a midafternoon City Council session agendized by city management as a budget session "to receive and file a presentation on the Fiscal Outlook for 2013 and Beyond," city management told the City Council, and taxpayers, that City Hall's current levels of service aren't sustainable and cuts in addition to those already made would be necessary for at least the next three years.

Management offered three options for funding a replenishment police academy class: shift the entire cost to other city departments, or shift half the cost to other departments and supplement with "one time" funds, or fund the academy class entirely with "new tax revenue" and possibly "one time funds."

City Hall Financial Management Director John Gross said that even with "proportonal reductions," City Hall's service levels (for items apart from police) were expected to decline to levels at which the Council should "reexamine them" to decide what should and shouldn't be funded.

Management's presentation, made mainly by Mr. Gross but also in part by City Manager Pat West, wasn't accompanied by a report/memorandum; instead, management displayed a slideshow (to view it in pdf form, click here).

City management indicated it envisioned a possible ballot measure in 2014 (a "general fund" measure that could be passed on a 50%+1 public vote and would let the Council spend the resulting sums on any General Fund items). However several Councilmembers indicated they were interested in considering a tax increase ballot measure as soon as this November, 2012 (which the Council would have to put on the ballot by early August 2012). [A November 2012 city tax increase measure would coincide with a presidential election and a proposed statewide tax increase, sought by Governor Jerry Brown and Sacramento Democrats, that proponents say is necessary to avoid further cuts to schools].

No Councilmembers flatly endorsed the idea of a LB tax increase ballot measures...but none dissented. No Councilmembers advocated funding a replenishment police academy immediately.

And no Councilmembers advocated funding a replenishment Academy class in FY13 (begins October 2012) regardless of whether a tax increase ballot measure is advanced or passes.

City Manager Pat West said city management didn't favor a Council decision on funding a replenishment Police Academy class until overall budget decisions in September.

Mayor Foster (who sought office on a pledge to put 100 more officers on the street) called it a "knee jerk" reaction to assume that more police were necessarily better at reducing crime. He suggested (as he has since the economic downturn prompted his budget cuts) that technological methods might provide efficiencies. Public Safety Committee chair Councilman Robert Garcia agreed with the Mayor and didn't make any motions to fund a replenishment police academy class. He moved to shift the subject to discussion of the type of downtown and urban environment people would like to see [an approach inviting a public "buy-in" to a tax increase that would supposedly to produce it.]

When asked in Council colloquy about continued attrition, Police Chief Jim McDonnell said the Department is on average losing about 44 officer/per year.

Councilwoman Rae Gabelich (term limited and exiting the Council in mid-July) said she'd faced similar budget issues each year only to hear that annual cuts would solve the problems...that haven't been solved. She raised the issue of revisiting LB's utility tax, lowered by voters from 10% to 5% in Nov. 2000. City management indicated it didn't have any specific type of tax increase in mind and simply suggested a ballot measure as a general Council option.

Mayor Foster said he believes voters would be unlikely to approve a tax measure unless they believed the City had done all it could before seeking a tax increase.

Three motions (besides "receive and file" for management's report) were made:

  • A motion was made by Councilwoman Gabelich, seconded by Councilwoman Schipske, to request City Manager to return to City Council with various revenue raising options. (Approved 9-0).
  • A motion was made by Vice Mayor Lowenthal, seconded by Councilwoman Schipske, to request City Manager to return to City Council with proposals for budget modeling software that allow City residents to participate in the prioritization of City programs and services for FY 13. (Approved 7-2, DeLong & Andrews absent)
  • A motion was made by Councilmember Garcia, seconded by Councilwoman Gabelich, to request that the City Manager return with a series of discussions on government reform and innovation. Approved 7-2 (DeLong & Andrews absent)

    Later, during the main evening Council meeting, the Mayor indicated (in colloquy during a separate item) that he plans to propose a ballot measure for this fall's (Nov. 2012) ballot that would require the type of pension reforms that he proposed in 2010 that have since been accepted by LB's police and firefighter unions but (City Hall says) not yet by the IAM, the union representing the city's non-public safety employees).

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