Heystek’s Move Shifts Budget But Council Doesn’t Go Far Enough

citycatWhen Councilmember Lamar Heystek pulled the dramatic move in early June by going to the staff table and presenting his own budget numbers, he got everyone’s attention.  Had the council meeting not run so late the next week on June 16, Councilmember Stephen Souza would have done something similar for his own compromise numbers.  As it turns out, the move by Councilmember Heystek succeeded in getting council to move off the city manager’s budget, but not by nearly enough.

As it stands right now, the budget will likely pass by a 3-2 vote.  Much of how bad the budget will be is still to be determined by the results of employee negotiations–but we are not holding out hope that the city council and city staff will solve the city’s structural problems.

The current budget is modestly better than the original, but fails to solve and largely address key problems.  We do not even believe for the most part it is based on realistic assumptions.

For starters, Councilmember Heystek argued that we will end up losing revenue from this year on taxes.  This year we lost something like 14% in sales tax revenues.  Councilmember Souza is arguing that with the arrival of Target in October, increases in auto sales, and changes in property tax assessments it will produce a 1% increase in tax revenues.  Given the city’s reliance on state funding for jobs in terms of the university, state workers, and even the county workers, it seems likely that sales tax revenues will plummet, that Target arrives midway through the fiscal year, and that any increases in property taxes will be offset by the continued collapse of retail.  The bottom line is that I think tax revenues as neutral is far too rosy a picture.

The other key issue is personnel costs.  Councilmember Heystek got the city council to move from the $850,000 figure that the city manager proposed to the $1.25 million that it currently sits.  That split the difference between Councilmember Heystek’s 5% and the city manager’s proposal.  But the bottom line is that we need to look at ways to fix the problems long term and this budget does not succeed in doing that.

Along with addressing structural problems by the city, the other point of Councilmember Heystek was to avoid the kinds of short-term programmatic costs.  Part of the problem with these kinds of costs is that the city is going to in the short-term short-change the public and in some cases itself by not filling staff positions.  It sounds fine if you are talking about keeping a position open for one year.  But if you look at the five year forecast and see deficits throughout, you quickly realize that this is more or less permanent as these things go.  We really want a permanent solution to cut back on service ours and support staff or do we want to actually get in there and address our structural problems?

On the margins once again, Councilmember Heystek was able to beat some of the changes back.  He opened up a bit more savings by increasing the size of cuts to the City Attorney.  Part of the problem with the City Attorney is that for a good deal of time, she sits at meetings getting paid even though she is not really doing anything.

Councilmember Heystek was able to get full funding back for the DMA, he was able to keep open swimming, he was able to restore funding for parks maintenance.

On the other hand, the city has greatly cut back on police oversight.  We ran the article last week but we now have a $10,000 cut to the $60,000 ombudsman position and it appears that the city manager misrepresenting what the ombudsman told him in terms of the impact of those cuts.  In addition, the city refused to put the professional standards sergeant back on the table.  So to the extent that Councilmember Heystek got marginal changes, for the most part the council left in place the bulk of the budget.

Furthermore, the city continues to fail to deal with the overtime issue.  $150,000 in cuts to overtime is simply not enough.  We were stunned last year that the city accounted for so little of how and under what conditions overtime money was spent.  We know for instance that while firefighters do not get overtime directly from engaging in community educational activities, those hours in the end likely bump them into the overtime category.  So for all intents and purposes, we are paying them overtime to perform non-critical and lifesaving activities.  Some of that has been eliminated through a tier reduction, but we need to better account for how overtime is used and then figure out ways to reduce it far more than the current $150,000 in cuts.

Councilmember Heystek has pointedly said in the past that he will not only oppose a sales tax renewal tax if the council fails to deal with the structural issues of the city, he will campaign against it.  The Vanguard takes a similar position.  As of right now, the Vanguard argues that the city has failed to appropriately address its structural issues.

The city’s budget process has come to an end, and it appears to be a disappointing end.  We do not know at this time, what the outcome will be of employee negotiations.  However, we have a good idea of where it must be going.  At last week’s Davis City Council meeting, two of the councilmembers Mr. Souza and Mr. Saylor got up and told their colleagues that we need to stop demonizing city employees.  We have not had the opportunity to clip this interchange, but we likely will in the near future.

The bottom line is that Councilmember Greenwald did no such thing.  She simply offered the viewpoint that we were overly generous in our employee compensation packages in the past and that that cannot continue into the future.  That is not demonizing or denigrating employees.  In fact it makes no judgment about them at all.

So let us be clear.  First, the targets of salary reductions should be on the top end.  Not those employees at the bottom of the rung who struggle month to month.  But those cleaning up on the city making well over $100,000 in total compensation.

Second, we are not making this argument because the employees are bad people or are doing a bad job.  I have never heard a single complaint about the job that the firefighters perform.  That is not the issue here.  The issue is whether or not we can afford to continue to pay out the salary and retirement benefits that the CITY gave away in the last collective bargaining agreement.  And while I recognize full well that this position does not endear me to these particular employees, it is not out of disdain for the work that they do.

A further point about the budget that Councilmember Heystek did not address, I believe we are too top heavy.  Some have suggested we have far too many middle managers and could streamline the chain of command by the elimination of middle management positions.

From my perspective, we probably have too much in the way of upper management and I would look to eliminate management positions.  If I were writing the alternative budget I probably would have written out two positions paying around $150,000 in total compensation.  That would have saved another $300,000 in salary by holding the positions open, and hopefully with that, we could have restored a couple of other tier cuts.

The bottom line is that we still need to fix the structure of the city budget rather than tinker on the edges and this budget does not come close to doing that.  We appreciate the efforts of Councilmember Heystek to force the council majority to address this.  We also appreciate the stalwart that is Councilmember Sue Greenwald as she has fought hard for changes to compensation structure.  But short of that there is far too much pandering by the council to special interests.  Last Friday we saw why. 

But now we really need to step up and drive a hard bargain in employee negotiations, unfortunately I just do not see the will to do that and this budget passage will take almost all the pressure off the bargaining units to compromise.  The danger of such a low number in that employee compensation adjustment is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and worse yet, it becomes a number for the employees to compromise off of.

Sorry folks, but we have lost this round.  Better luck next time.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 Comments

  1. Heystacks numbers could be anybodys picks

    Please , anybody could of done what Heystack did , even a 10 year old .Paul did the work , Lamar just moved numbers around .

    You and Lamar will stand up and vote no for the sales tax renewal , that will really help programs that are needed . I’m really glad that DMA got funded so that you could talk for free on KDRT , while your a for profit business using city funded services , and making money for yourself .

    Sue Greenwald , David’s mom I believe , when you look at her expressions and actions when talking about city employees, she has no respect , just a true look of hate on her face .

    Yes you’ve lost this round and you guys deserve to lose .

  2. Thinking of the Next Parcel Tax ----

    Dear Staff and CC Majority: you won’t do the right thing and cut back on the extremely rich packages that certain city employees get. Meanwhile, you are cutting back on the programs that count for families and little kids. I and many friends will remember this when you try and come back with the next parcel tax renewal. We are seriously considering running the citywide opposition campaign, to make a point to all of you big spenders.

  3. Still Thinking ----

    P.S. to Staff and C Majority: If we say BOO, you lose that parcel tax. You know it. Then the hand-wringing starts. And if you don’t cut those extremely rich staff packages, we will say BOO again. Til you do the right thing.

  4. save ag land

    What a hateful person,5:47am! Maybe its the early hour. Try coffee first next time. How dare you attack David! Do you have any idea how much effort he puts into the Vanguard, without pay, getting out information that our city and local paper never talk about?

    Lamar Heystek is to be commended for his work on the budget. Lamar did much more than move numbers around. Did you even bother to study his proposals? He developed a completely different budget based on completely different assumptions. He did Paul’s work without pay. What he did was a great effort, but this council, with the exeption of Lamar and Sue, are living in denial,and city staff are run by the council majority. To give him his due, Paul couldn’t very well have presented the real budget crisis, as that would have made Steve and Don look bad. No problems on their watch! Meanwhile, Rome is burning. This city is going to tank, with or without an increase in the sales tax. We cannot sustain our current expenditures and commitments.

  5. Fed Up Taxpayer

    “Councilmember Heystek has pointedly said in the past that he will not only oppose a sales tax renewal tax if the council fails to deal with the structural issues of the city, he will campaign against it. The Vanguard takes a similar position. As of right now, the Vanguard argues that the city has failed to appropriately address its structural issues.”

    It will be interesting to see if you and Lamar stick to your guns on this issue. I have always been opposed to these extra parcel taxes, including the school parcel tax, bc of the irresponsibility of the CC/DJUSD in the way they budget OUR MONEY.

    Right now, taxpayers are hurting, bigtime. The CC and DJUSD cannot expect to soak the taxpayers continually, to pay for the outrageous salaries of upper management. Colby received a raise and the DHS Stadium is being overhauled, as teachers are laid off. Firefighters and other city employees are going to continue gorging at the public trough, as they ruin this city financially. UCD paid the UC President a 100% salary increase, the UCD Chancellor (who is under a cloud for high crimes and misdemeanors) a 20% salary increase, UCSF Chancellor a 27% salary increase, as student fees are hiked.

    If voters keep approving tax increases, voters will get more of the same – out of control spending. It is time to call a halt to further taxation, just so city employees, university upper management, and schools can receive obscene salaries/spend to their hearts content.

  6. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]From my perspective, we probably have too much in the way of upper management and I would look to eliminate management positions. [/quote]I think this is a very good point. Without naming any individuals or specific job titles, I have interacted with some “top management” personnel for the city and realized that those individuals are doing jobs which are largely clerical: they are filling out forms and costing the taxpayers well north of $100,000 a year.

    There was a time not so many years ago when we didn’t seem to need all of these “management” positions we now have. My preference is that no one is fired (but instead reductions are shared). Yet if we have to cut back, the savings (as David suggests) might be found in “management.” Here is the money* we paid for these jobs** in 2008 (and multiply by about 1.06 to get the 2009 figures):

    ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER $190,054
    ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF $184,893
    PARKS & GENERAL SRVCS DIRECTOR $174,141
    FIRE DIVISION CHIEF $170,735
    ASSISTANT PUBLIC WORKS DIR. $161,245
    COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR $152,471
    INFORMATION TECH ADMIN $149,058
    CHIEF BUILDING OFFICIAL $149,058
    FIRE BUSINESS MANAGER $151,778
    ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES MANAGR $151,778
    ASSISTANT CITY ENGINEER $148,326
    DEPUTY CITY MANAGER $139,076
    DEPUTY CITY MANAGER $139,076
    PRINCIPAL PLANNER $139,076
    PRINCIPAL PLANNER $139,076
    PARKS/GEN SRVS SUPERINTENDENT $136,556
    TECHNICAL SERVICES MANAGER $136,555
    SR PW COLLECTIONS SUPERVISOR $131,734
    PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR $133,167
    SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS COORD $133,167
    BUDGET MANAGER $131,030
    UTILITIES MANGER $130,434
    WWTP SUPERVISOR $127,066
    IS ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER $125,505
    ASSISTANT CHIEF BLDG OFFICIAL $125,505
    ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR $125,505
    ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR $125,505
    ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR $125,505
    ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE COORD $122,852
    CITY CLERK $121,615
    PARKS MANAGER $116,296
    FINANCIAL SERVICES MANAGER $115,858
    URBAN FOREST MANAGER $111,692
    FLEET MANAGER $111,692
    COMMUNITY SERVICES MANAGER $111,692
    CHILD CARE MANAGER $111,692
    PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER II $107,088
    COMMUNITY SVCS SUPERINTENDENT $106,481
    WATER DIVISION SUPERVISOR $100,705
    CHILD CARE SUPERVISOR $97,502

    *Includes salary, pension and health benefit. There are other indirect benefits employees receive the city pays for, including life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and full medical, dental and vision care upon retirement. These add to each employee’s gross annual income and the direct cost of employment to the City. However, I don’t have estimates for these benefits. My guess is they amount to about $10,000 per year per employee. The largest of them is retiree medical. Currently, the City does not fully fund retiree medical, and has a liability of approximately $42 million.

    **Most of the highest paid employees for the City of Davis are in the Fire Department. They are mostly FF2s and Fire Captains and don’t appear on this list. I don’t know if any of the jobs on the list above are overpaid. I suspect some of them, on a relative basis, may be underpaid. I largely listed the jobs I did because most of them are supposedly “management.”

  7. Rich Rifkin

    Note for above list: I left out department heads, who generally make more money than most jobs on this list. The titles listed with maybe one or two exceptions are not top managers, but rather middle managers.

  8. Dont get it

    ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF $184,893———-serves at will; could be shown the door tomorrow.
    BUDGET MANAGER $131,030—————-Is this different from Finance Director?? So, we have a FD and BM?? That is just pure, unadulterated, you know….
    Sc**w off if you come to me asking for a tax increase OR renewal!!!!!!! Get it??
    ***Thanks Rich for exposing this***

  9. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]Please, anybody could [u]of[/u] done what [u]Heystack[/u] did, even a 10 year old. … I’m really glad that DMA got funded so that you could talk for free on KDRT, while [u]your[/u] a for profit business using city funded services, and making money for yourself.[/quote]A fair question to ask of you, Bobby, is where do you think, long-term and short-term, the cuts need to be made? Do you think it’s right to fire employees who may have critical jobs and certainly need an income to survive, so that others, such as you, Bobby, can go on making a huge salary, luxurious benefits, and a pension of more than $10,000 a month for 40 years? In the long-term, Bobby, is it responsible for the council to ignore its looming liabilities, such as unfunded retiree medical, which could force the city into bankruptcy or cause dozens of people to be thrown out of work when those bills come due, all the while we are not properly maintaining our streets? It’s fun, I am sure, while you are being paid to sleep on the job, to lob bombs at David Greenwald and anyone else who understands that we have some serious problems to deal with and we’re trying to come up with solutions which are the least painful for most employees and taxpayers. But it’s pointless, Bobby, to just assume everyone else has bad motives and that there are not serious problems which need solutions. Bobby, when you come up with some solutions on your own, people will take you more seriously.

    I will forgive your grammatical and orthographical boners, Bobby. At your salary, you can afford a secretary to write for you; and I’m sure your secretary was asleep at 5:47 when you posted on this thread. But for your secretary’s facility, Bobby, I’ve underlined your mistakes.

  10. Sue Greenwald

    First poster:

    I just can’t let this one pass. To set the record straight: I like our city employees very much. I have always lived in a public employee household, with a strong public employee ethic.

    I find all of our employees hard-working and conscientious. I haven’t come across a single city employees that is not a valuable workers and good person. As in any organization, I find that some are better fits for the specific job to which they are assigned than others. I sometimes get frustrated when I see a staff report that, in my opinion, directs us toward a train-wreck. But that is a very different issue from disliking or disrespecting an employee.

  11. Sue Greenwald

    Sorry I didn’t proof the last post carefully enough. It should read “I haven’t come across a single city employee that is not a valuable worker and good person”.

  12. remy

    The city needs 3 assistants to the director at $125k each? Unreal bureaucracy. We have got to get organized and change the city council. That’s the bottom line.

  13. What About Them New Taxes -----

    If you add up the water project soaking that staff are doing to us; the sky-high salaries; the 4 man fire crews instead of 3; the running to every fender bender instead of waiting til facts indicating some injuries; the huge fire personnel pay and benefit packages; on and on … I think we are heading towards organized opposition to the next time staff come to the voters for some cash …

  14. What About Them New Taxes -----

    P.S. Lamar and DPD: I am with you on your statements concerning any tax renewals, in light of the financial screw-job the city taxpayers are getting. “Tempest in a Davis Tea Party Pot” Let’s have a tea party!

  15. fed up

    This is not about personal ad hominem attacks on any employee or elected official. IT’S ABOUT THE $$$. We don’t have enough and we have to cut. Vitriolic comments are useless and worse, distracting. The problem is there is a problem, and the City Council is charged with fixing the problem through staff, and the public is not seeing any meaningful attempts by the CC or staff to address the problem. We can’t mediate or compromise or discuss our way to resolution. We have to change the way we do things and reduce/eliminate expenditures. The biggest budget items are for staff costs/benefits. you either cut staff or cut their income/benefits. It’s not kind, it’s not nice but it must be done (and I say this as a civil servant whose spouse was laid off from a public sector job.)

    I’ve joined my neighbors for over 15 years in giving to schools, local foundations, and every fundraiser that comes my way as a good Davis citizen (that is the Davis social life, BTW – fundraisers!)

    NOT

    ONE

    MORE

    PENNY!

    to schools, parcel taxes, or anything until the CC gets its act together and ACTS.

    Start printing those tea party lawn signs now.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]Start printing those tea party lawn signs now.[/quote]Other than city services rates, which will continue to move up to pay for all of the water, sewer, etc. projects without a vote, I don’t see the city budget mess as being one about tax increases or tax cuts. (I highly doubt we don’t renewe the parks tax, for example.) I see this as being a question about the long-term health of the city finances, which will affect the provision of necessary services (including police, fire, roads) and will affect the job security of hundreds of city employees. Those folks who take it as [i]an attack on city workers[/i] to question whether we can afford paying a $10,000 per month pension to 50 year old retirees are ignoring the fact that doing so now means we will be ultimately firing cops who keep the peace, public works workers who repair broken water pipes, landscapers who trim city trees and bushes, and so on. It seems to me that by ignoring the cancer, we are saying we don’t care if it kills off the next generation, or at least part of it, and it does so while the city fails to provide the very services that this city was established to provide. After all, if the city won’t provide proper policing and proper streets, why have an incorporated city at all? We could just be a larger Esparto.

  17. Hey Firefighters and Yost and Associates!

    If 2-3 city leaders (electeds or former electeds) and a team of seasoned campaigners choose to run the campaign, we could easily take down the next tax renewal or increase.

    The question is: will any of us veterans be willing to do it, to make the point that we are sick and tired of the CC majority and senior staff bleeding us dry for their developer-driven projects (surface water, Covell Village) and to make their political surrogates (the fire fighters) rich for life, off our backs?

    I am starting to get pissed off enough to do it.

  18. wdf

    “The CC and DJUSD cannot expect to soak the taxpayers continually, to pay for the outrageous salaries of upper management. Colby received a raise and the DHS Stadium is being overhauled, as teachers are laid off.”

    Actually Colby and the other top three administrators took a 5% cut. The rest of the administrators (principals) took a 2% cut. In doing so, DJUSD administrators have taken the personal responsibility to bring their portion of the budget closer in line to available revenue. That kind of leadership has been lacking in other areas of government

    Money to fund the stadium is facilities money (which can’t be used for salaries) already approved by voters before well before this current economic downturn. DSF is doing what it can through fundraising to help keep some teachers. It seems that the teachers and classified employees rejected any proposal this past year to cut their salaries. That could have saved some jobs.

  19. earoberts

    “Actually Colby and the other top three administrators took a 5% cut. The rest of the administrators (principals) took a 2% cut. In doing so, DJUSD administrators have taken the personal responsibility to bring their portion of the budget closer in line to available revenue. That kind of leadership has been lacking in other areas of government”

    Colby was given a 4% raise, and only now are the upper managment taking pay cuts. Those pay cuts are nothing more than enhancing job security at this point.

    “Money to fund the stadium is facilities money (which can’t be used for salaries) already approved by voters before well before this current economic downturn.”

    Money for both facilities and salaries comes from the same fiscal pot – taxpayers’ collective pockets.

  20. wdf

    “Colby was given a 4% raise, and only now are the upper managment taking pay cuts. Those pay cuts are nothing more than enhancing job security at this point.”

    At the moment DJUSD administration is more responsive to cutting salaries than is nearly every other branch of local government around here. I wish there were more of this sort of thing going on in City government. DJUSD already has a low administrator/student ratio compared to the state and national averages for school districts.

    “Money to fund the stadium is facilities money (which can’t be used for salaries) already approved by voters before well before this current economic downturn.”

    Money for both facilities and salaries comes from the same fiscal pot – taxpayers’ collective pockets.”

    That response is meaningless to the argument. The earlier posting (yours?) complained that schools facilities money was being spent as teachers were being let go. Voters already designated that money for facilities, not salaries.

  21. earoberts

    “That response is meaningless to the argument. The earlier posting (yours?) complained that schools facilities money was being spent as teachers were being let go. Voters already designated that money for facilities, not salaries.”

    This statement ignores the bigger reality – that as the economy was going south, DJUSD was spending on raises to Colby and renovations to the Stadium. The flawed argument is always that facilities money is separate from operating expenses. But the bottom line is all of this money comes from one pot of money – the taxpayers’ collective pockets – which are not bottomless. And we are really going to see this play out in the coming months, as the disastrous state budget filters down to the local level. I suspect renovations to the DHS Stadium may not look like such a good move by the end of the year. Only time will tell. IMHO, both the raise to Colby and the renovations to the DHS Stadium were colosally stupid moves.

  22. wdf

    “IMHO, both the raise to Colby and the renovations to the DHS Stadium were colosally stupid moves.”

    Colosally stupid?

    We probably have to agree to differ. I don’t view it as the school board trying to pull a fast one. Colby’s contract was about to expire, and the school board wanted to make sure they hung on to him to get through this budget crisis — which will at least be another couple of years. Otherwise DJUSD would probably have a vacant CBO position right now, and Colby would have spent the past few months more focused on looking for his next job than on navigating the district budget through legislative games of brinksmanship. To me, not keeping a reliable person in place as CBO would be colosally stupid in these times. The raise doesn’t matter now, because Colby and the others have taken cuts.

    As for the stadium, the money could have sat in the bank un spent and useless to mitigate teacher layoffs. But it’s more prudent to spend it now when financing and construction costs are lower. To wait until unemployment fell and state tax receipts go back up again would invite higher financing and construction costs, and then you and others would be criticizing the district for letting this current opportunity slip away.

  23. earoberts

    “To wait until unemployment fell and state tax receipts go back up again would invite higher financing and construction costs, and then you and others would be criticizing the district for letting this current opportunity slip away.”

    There is no friggin’ way you would hear me criticizing the district for not spending money on DHS Stadium renovations! Yes, we will have to agree to disagree on both counts – Colby’s raise (I suppose you approve of Yodof’s and Katahi’s raise, salaries of Davis firefighters and the like – bc it somehow gets us better qualified people, or keeps qualified people in place?) and the renovations to the DHS Stadium.

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