As I read it, “For the first time in history, the farewell to outgoing council members and the welcoming of the newly-elected council were accompanied by readings by Davis’ poet laureate.”
As was reported, home sales in California showed their largest drop last month in more than two years. In Yolo County, the number of homes reported sold totaled 14. That is right, people: in Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland, Winters, and the rest of the county just 14 homes sold in the entire month of July. 26 sold in June, 32 sold in July of 2009. I do not have Davis-specific figures, but needless to say, they cannot be any better than the county.
Meanwhile, the jobless rate continues to rise in Yolo County. Remember, I reported that a large number of people showed up at MacDonald’s in Woodland for a few positions. Well, overall the picture does not look good. Yolo County’s unemployment rate rose to 12 percent in July, up from 11.9 percent in June which is not much, but it is significantly higher than the 11.2 percent in July of 2009.
Worse yet, these figures are not seasonally-adjusted, so they will go up this fall when temporary employment for farm work diminishes.
We have no budget at the state level, the leaders are still bickering over the same petty partisanship that has gridlocked the system for years.
At the city level, we know what we are facing. So the long list of accomplishments in the Davis Enterprise editorial mean little. Some of these are important steps, solar power generation, guidelines for planning housing for senior citizens (although the council had little to do with these other than approving them), the consolidation of fire response services, this is all important.
However, as we see with the employee bargaining contract with the Davis Police Officers Association, we realize what has not been done are the big things. The Davis City Council has been handed a task, they have an imperative to get our fiscal house in order. The electorate screamed for it at the polls.
Instead, what we saw was at best a piecemail approach. This year the council has approved MOUs with all its bargaining units except CEA, the largest of the bargaining units. Instead of making huge strides toward putting this city on the path of fiscal solvency, at best, the council and city nudged us from the wrong direction in the direction of the right one.
The problem, as I have pointed out at the beginning of each week this month, is that it pushed the clock back three years, in most cases. That is a long time when we have impending fiscal problems that look like they will only get worse as the economy continues to sputter.
Without home sales, we are not going to gain anything in the way of revenue from property taxes. We have pretty much held onto our property tax revenue without experiencing huge losses, it appears, because property is not changing hands and therefore the rates are not changing. The problem in that game is that we have locked in small, but existent, increases in the employee compensation, 2 to 3 percent per year after this one.
The economy does not appear likely to rebound any time soon. In fact, locally it may get worse. That is because Davis is heavily reliant on the University and the State as its main employers and those people are really taking a hit and figure to continue to take a hit. Students are strapped as well, getting hit with huge rate hikes and that will put a strain on their ability to pump money into our local economy.
2014-15 is the critical time when we have to have made huge changes to our retirement formulas or face calamity. We have gone over the numbers before, they have not changed. The city faces huge unfunded liabilities in retirement health, increases in pensions, and will have to pay these increased prices in what increasingly looks like a zero-growth budget for the next several years.
Something is going to have to give. Either we are going to have serious cutbacks in city services, or we are going to have to change the way we do business. We have done very little since the new council has come together in July to start addressing these issues.
Again, there were some much-needed things passed, but now is not the time for celebration. The council is not off to a great start, the real work has yet to begin. We need a council that is willing not just to work together, but to change the way this city is run, and that we have not seen yet. I remain more hopeful than some, but time is of the essence.
—David M. Greenwald reporting