August 3, 2007

Do we have your attention yet?

LAAG has been beating the pension drum for a while. Now that it has hit Long Beach and Orange County up along side their proverbial heads perhaps now things will start to change. You cant expect to fix crumbling bridges AND have "public safety" people retiring at 50 (for another 40 years) at $150,000 a year plus cost of living and the most generous medical on the planet. You cant give away social programs to everyone. Something has to go. Also people want more police but at what cost. No one looks at the "real" efficiency or effectiveness of police and fire employees due to public unions scuttling that examination. They consider themselves above cost cutting as they are "heroes". Is crime not down? How will 100 police stop a gang murder? Had a fire on your block lately? Local governments mission is to provide infrastructure, and yes "public safety" but not at a cost 3x what private sector employees cost. This reminds me once again of the French Revolution. Remember that? Or even the American Revolution (you know all that silly stuff you learned in high school). Party's over folks. Wake up, its time to pay up. Who wins? Government fat cats, slothful government employees, public unions and their lobbyists and politicians (the last 30 years worth) who got us into this or the taxpayers?

Budget reaches `tipping point'
Mayor says city's struggling despite growing revenue, cutbacks.
By Kristopher Hanson, Staff writer
Article Launched: 08/02/2007 10:43:05 PM PDT

LONG BEACH - Three years into an effort to balance the city's budget, Long Beach continues to struggle financially despite growing revenue streams, a new tax on oil production and cutbacks in most public departments, officials said Thursday.

The city's financial situation was outlined in the proposed Fiscal Year 2008 budget unveiled Thursday by Mayor Bob Foster and several department heads.

"This city now lives paycheck-to-paycheck," Foster said in a briefing at City Hall. "That's the situation we find ourselves in today, and frankly, we're at a tipping point."

Although city government is now forecast to end the next fiscal year with a slim surplus, deferred infrastructure projects, growing police and fire costs and other expenses could have Long Beach facing deficits again in the near future, Foster warned.

The city's fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The proposed budget, which is now available to the public for review and possible revisions, requires approval by the City Council.

Since fiscal year 2004, the city has erased a $60 million structural deficit by freezing vacant positions, consolidating work, increasing user fees and putting off capital improvement projects.

But deferred maintenance has left city streets and public facilities - including fire stations - in disrepair, and the city now estimates it will need $90 million to fix crumbling roadways and $585 million for building repairs and replacement within the next 10 to 20 years.

"We can't continue hobbling along for another decade," Foster said. "We have to change the way we look at things, and that goes for the mayor, the City Council and city staff."

Foster said no specific citywide bond measures or tax increases were being considered at this point, and instead urged more "public-private" partnerships and developments to help offset costs to the city.

Assistant City Manager Christine Shippey, who oversaw the budget's development, indicated the city is also willing to outsource services and sell unspecified assets to raise money.

"We have to consider everything," Shippey said.

The proposed $2.3 billion total budget for 2008 includes $1.94 billion in funds legally restricted for certain purposes, including beach maintenance and harbor development, with $392 million for the General Fund.

The General Fund pays for local government staples like police and fire service, libraries, street repairs and youth programs.

Of that $392 million, police and fire services will eat up 66 percent, with the rest split between community services, public works and general government costs.

The city's 5,853 employees, who include police officers and firefighters, are budgeted to collect nearly $770 million in the coming year in wages and benefits - a roughly 4 percent increase from the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget includes money for 14 additional police officers and 12 firefighters funded through fees collected by Proposition H, which voters approved in May.

The measure increased taxes on the nearly 40,000 barrels of oil pumped in the city daily and is expected to raise $3.6 million to $4 million annually.

Prop H money will also be used to buy a new fire ladder truck for Station 4 or Station 14.

While no dramatic cuts have been structured into the FY 2008 budget, the city will stop an extended day care program and continue not filling vacant positions.

In addition, authorities plan to lobby for more grants and revenues from county, state and federal governments for street work and infrastructure.

Long Beach Financial Director Mike Killebrew said the city is also studying financial practices in each department to determine where money can be saved.

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said that while the budget reflects the city's progress through tough financial times, it fails to address how Long Beach will put more cops on the street - a stated goal of the council.

"I am concerned ... by the lack of any reference in this budget as to how and when this city will add an additional 100 police officers on our streets - a goal many of us were committed to during our recent campaigns," Schipske said in a statement.

Schipske also urged city staff to eliminate duplicative functions at City Hall and increase the use of volunteers as ways to keep costs down.

The councilwoman is hosting a budget workshop for 5th District residents at 6 p.m. Aug. 13 in the El Dorado Park Senior Center, 2800 Studebaker Road.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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