He cited among his reasons a lack of priority that the personnel cost savings target of 1.25 million dollars has taken in city negotiations that he believes will fall well short of that type of savings and will occur so late in the fiscal year that any cost savings realized with be mitigated in impact on the budget shortfall.
“At this moment in time, I’m not currently in favor of the extension of the existing sales tax override if our financial system isn’t fundamentally overhauled. “
He concluded by saying:
“I don’t feel that after this round of negotiations we’ll be at a place where we want to be and making our target. For that reason I don’t feel we can do this at this time.”
Here are his full comments at considerable length:
I want to make some statements on the primary question that is before tonight which is about staff is seeking council input or feedback on the presentation of the extension of the sales tax override on next year’s ballot. I want to preface my comments saying that as a council candidate in 2004, one of all candidates who supported Measure P, I believe Councilmember Greenwald, Councilmember Souza, and the Mayor Pro Tem stood for election at that time. We all supported Measure P, it was about people, parks, and programs, that’s what I remember.
As we all know the city is continuing to face issues with regards to employee compensation. The council is still negotiating, we’re still trying to reach a target of $1.25 million in personnel cost savings. But I think we’re going to be far off from that. We’re poised to miss that modest personnel costs savings target of $1.25 million because I believe there are two reasons.
One, we have not made our target a cornerstone of our negotiations. It has not been, I feel, a principle that we want to uphold to reach in the midst of our negotiations and I don’t believe we negotiated soon enough. I think we’re in a situation where I think we’re already halfway into the current fiscal year and we’re not going to nearly reap the benefit of negotiating with our labor partners here.
So the current sales tax override sunsets in 2010 and that means that any sales tax measure that we present to the voters should be considered as a new tax. We may consider it an extension, just as we talked about Measure J, the extension of that, but we are presenting a new measure to the voters and any extension of the current sales tax should be considered a new measure.
At this moment in time, I’m not currently in favor of the extension of the existing sales tax override if our financial system isn’t fundamentally overhauled. Some people might say it’s easy for me to take such a position at this time because I’m right about to leave the council. Some people won’t necessarily take the position that I’m hold now seriously because I won’t be on the council deal with what possibly would amount to a $3 million budget shortfall.
I don’t want the members of the community to think it’s merely a city council problem. I know there may not be many members of the public to think about what a $3 million shortfall might be, but it is a community problem and I remain a member of the community even after I step down off the council. I wouldn’t necessarily oppose this extension of the sales tax lightly because it does help to pay for the general fund supported programs that I feel are very important and are near and dear to my heart. In fact I consider myself a strong advocate for such programs and services.
We cannot simply ask citizens to continue funding, what I consider, an unsustainable model for the sake of buying time. The time is now to make structural changes to our budget and to our compensation model. I feel that asking the voters to continue to fund that model is not the right thing to do. It is a very difficult thing for me to say because on the one hand I’m here asking for support to keep programs and services whole and on the other, possibly takings away from the budget several million dollars that would support programs like that.
I do this because I feel that it is the only leverage that I have with my colleagues and with the community to highlight the problem that we have. To not just say that we need to extend the sales measure because we need to do it, that’s critical. I just don’t think that’s enough. We’re going to come to renewal of the parks’ tax and we’re going to say that that’s critical too and it may be. But unless we do something to prove to the voters that we deserve their continued support in a supplemental fashion, when they’re already paying the municipal services tax, when they’re for the public safety charge on their utility bills, when they’re already paying in other ways in this community. In fact, this is a community that passed school revenue enhancement measures twice, in two Novembers.
I think this is a very generous community. It’s not about what we can afford to give as citizens. I think it comes to, what are we going to do to be accountable and what are we going to do to prove that we deserve this community’s support even if it is a half-cent on every dollar spent in retail, restaurants, and services.
So unless we do something that shows that we’re moving significantly in a direction to do some structural change, I don’t know that I can lend my support. Some say that our approach to fiscal change should be incremental and I don’t necessarily disagree with that. I agree that change needs to be incremental. But we’re poised to not be as deliberate as we need to be.
I don’t feel that after this round of negotiations we’ll be at a place where we want to be and making our target. For that reason I don’t feel we can do this at this time, and I suspect that there will be a majority that will want to go along with this, which is fine, but I hope that we do something to evidence the fact that we are making structural change in the future.
—David M. Greenwald reporting