Council faces another budget challenge | March 18, 2011 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 18, 2011

Council faces another budget challenge

With ongoing employee expenses expected to jump $3.2 million next year, and the outlook for more of the same in the years ahead, the City Council must decide soon how much it can press to reduce pension benefits and costly work rules. If not, facing an estimated $2.1 million budget deficit next year, the council must continue to chop away at city services, possibly laying off police officers.

In his first draft of next year's budget, City Manager Kevin Duggan assumes $1 million in pension and benefit savings, as well as an additional $900,000 from increasing land lease revenue and fees charged for city services. And although most council members were generally supportive of the budget proposals, some said adding nearly $1 million in fees after significant increases last year may be going far.

But without additional income from fees and leases, the city will have to adopt portions of the suggested staff cuts included in the Tier Three plan that would save $2.1 million. The worst case scenario presented to the council includes lay offs of 16 employees and elimination of up to nine vacant full-time positions.

Tier One cuts would save only $637,000 by laying off a stagehand at the Performing Arts Center, a public education specialist at the fire department and a police community services officer. It would also eliminate a vacant weed-abatement worker position.

To save $1 million, the additional cuts in Tier Two would eliminate two community service officers, a vacant police records specialist position, a deputy fire marshal and four other positions, ranging in savings from $97,000 for a parks maintenance officer to $39,000 for an accounting technician.

In addition to the Tier One and Two cuts, Tier Three would eliminate five police community service officers and lower the union-contract minimum staffing levels in the fire department for a savings of $600,000.

There are other ways to reduce the city's costs, although those mentioned would either fall short of making a real dent in the deficit, or be difficult to implement. For example, Councilman Mike Kasperzak suggested that the city should look for ways to combine delivery of services with other cities, noting that fire departments have been merged and library services can be contracted out to the county.

The city is talking to Palo Alto about reducing the cost of the animal control contract, but could farm out the services to another provider in southern Santa Clara County and probably save more. Potential savings for this change could be significant, but probably would not be as user-friendly to residents and probably would not make a large impact on the deficit.

Outsourcing the city's fire department should be considered, but such a move would present a huge political challenge and almost certainly would be strongly opposed by most members of the department.

In prior budget years, the city already has done more than many of its peers in getting employees to share more benefit costs, but in this down economy, city revenues are not as robust as in prior years, and certainly not enough to cover the increased employee expenses.

So it will be up to the council to decide whether to mount a major initiative to roll back employee benefits or continue to lay off staff members, with a resulting cut in the level of services delivered to Mountain View residents. It will not be an easy decision.


Posted by Angry Tax Payer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

This city along with many others up and down the peninsula will have two options in the long run. First will be to raise taxes over-and-over again. Homeowners will be forced to pay the most as parcel taxes are voted on by all citizens and most have no problem sticking it to the homeowners as long as it dose not raise their taxes. The second choice will be to rein in spending on public workers and/or outsource these services to a private company. Cities have been kicking the can down the road for too long and this will all come to ahead soon.

I think many of these cities will be forced to disincorporate and return control over to the counties. We have too many cities within each county, most counties need no more than four territories at most (north,south,east, and west). These small cities duplicate services (sometimes right down the street from each other), have excessive pay/benefit packages, and are generally wasteful in their effort to validate their existence.

These wasteful practices cannot continue but will, so long as the unions have a stranglehold on tax-payers wallets and basically help themselves whenever they see fit and are living well beyond anything available to them in the private sector. Public employees need to be on par with private sector, that means paying into their health care and a 401k policy like the rest of us. A lot of them get better retirement than the citizens who pay for their golden retirement plans. Pension spiking, work-rules, overtime, double-dipping and sick-time abuses are gonna bankrupt cities and/or raise our taxes when we already pay a ridiculous amount for taxes. It is time for these cities and counties to get their books in order and balanced before they ask tax-payers to pitch in one more dime to their over-bloated budgets.

Get the word out to your friends and neighbors- NO NEW TAXES! That includes tax-extensions. Why should we pay for their gross mismanagement and reward unresponsible and imprudent accounting abuse. Time for us to put our collective foot down, we should keep more of our own money instead of giving in to tax demands that enable wasteful practices. Stay out of our wallets/pocketbooks!

Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Smoke and Mirrors - the City of Mountain View budget crisis? Bogus! As I recall The City Mountain View is or has just spent ten-million dollars on the Stevens Creek Bike Trail, and another ten-million dollars on a downtown project, and maybe more city treasure on another big ticket item. Those better in the know please correct or add to these figures. Google is building on a wild-life sanctuary, and the city approved building on the Minton's site; there ought to additional funding coming in from those sources. And word-of-mouth has it that the city has more than one-hundred and ten million dollars in the bank.

Agreed - no new taxes for home owners and other residents of Mountain View. CAREFUL we don't want to alienate our public employees by devaluing them, that could work in bad and very unexpected ways.

Posted by Angry Tax Payer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Steve, one point you forgot to make is that the city dose not exists to serve it's employees, it exists to serve residents/business. Many public employees forget this with their pushy demands on top of an already overly-generous salary. Like you, they always like to point out when the city spends anything on a project other than to give them more money, raises, and perks. When a city spends more on basic services than actually providing for residents/business then it has become ineffective and a slave to the employee-unions. When have you heard a private sector employee ever threaten his boss, demand this-and-that, or a private sector boss afraid to speak the truth about his/her employees out of fear? Thought so, only in public sector dose the hen run the fox-house.

Many of these folks are lazy, cocky, and inefficient as a result. If you can't get fired or compete in a free market employment economy what motivation do you have to be efficient, innovative, and resourceful? This is not how it works in the real world. Public unions are the opposite and as a result produce greed, waste, and inefficiency. They know they can just send the tax-payer's the bill. It aint their money so why should they care and there is zero competition (due to public union nonsense) so motivation is nil; it's all about the money in the end and if you think the panhandlers in SF a aggressive wait til the union panhandlers come knocking/demanding to dig in your wallet!

Posted by Average Joe, a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

And for any of us taxpaying suckers, the answer to all this is real simple when your bills owed exceed your income: you make the cuts required or you lose everything.

Duggan's retirement check, and those of the last three administrators and attorney who retired last year, combined for a over one million alone owed by the city.